TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

SPECIAL HEARING

IN CAMERA

HELDERBERG FLIGHT

DATE: 1 JUNE 1998

HELD AT: CAPE TOWN

DAY 1

______________________________________________________

CHAIRPERSON: Ladies and gentlemen, this is a section 29 inquiry, it is a investigative inquiry held in camera in terms of section 29 of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act.

It's an information gathering exercise, and for that reason only people who have been invited to come and give evidence and/or their legal representatives and members of the staff of the Commission, which includes translators and engineers, need and are permitted to be in attendance.

All evidence that has been given in an inquiry of this nature is confidential until the commission, subject to notice to affected parties, decides to release the evidence into the public domain, but for the moment such evidence remains confidential.

Now, Ms Terreblanche, I do not know how you propose to deal with the presenting of evidence. I would assume that you are going to call Dr Klatzow in his capacity as a forensics expert and consultant, and you will guide him. I only want us to be certain as to whether we are going to run the two inquiries as if it was one inquiry, or whether we propose to separate the Helderberg inquiry, take all the evidence relevant thereto, then going to the Machel inquiry?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Unfortunately that was not possible due to logistics constraints. Unfortunately today we will have to have our expert opinion from Dr Klatzow and from Deborah Patta in terms of the Machel inquiry. Tomorrow we'll deal only with the Helderberg and on Thursday we will first deal with the Helderberg and then go into the Machel, which we will then conclude on Thursday.

CHAIRPERSON: Now in terms of the record, how is the record going to show?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Can we separate it in any possible way?

CHAIRPERSON: Well, maybe the people who are dealing with the translation. I think we should have separate records, because it's separate incidents, but we can take evidence in any sort of form. Maybe that is something that we'll have to canvass with the engineers. It should be clear, it should be possible that when we deal with one inquiry, we deal with it, and then if we have to take a witness who will deal with an inquiry other than the one for which evidence has been taken, then the records will have to show that we are dealing with somebody else other than which we have.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Yes, I assume it will be all right if we just state in the beginning of a new witness which inquiry this relates to. The only problem would be the lawyer Van Rensburg, who would be here on Wednesday, who will be testifying in both cases.

CHAIRPERSON: Ja, well by then, when he testifies, we can deal with one matter and then the other.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Right.

CHAIRPERSON: In that event, we will be guided by you as to who is testifying on what. For the moment I believe you will be calling Dr Klatzow, and Dr Klatzow, welcome, and I am familiar with the circumstances of your being here and we are very indebted to you for having taken the time to be with us.

These are matters in relation to which we have had enormous inquiries, especially from the friends of the victims of Helderberg, and it has been a persistent plea from them that the TRC must do something in relation to these matters.

It has not been an easy decision to have to take evidence even in this limited form, because of time and capacity constraints that have been placed on the TRC, but we are extremely grateful to you for having afforded the opportunity to come.

Now, as is customary, we usually take evidence under oath, because that is the obligation, and I will therefore ask Commissioner Glenda Wildschut, who is sitting to my left, to swear you in. Commissioner Wildschut?

DAVID JOSEPH KLATZOW: (sworn states)

CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much Commissioner Wildschut. Just for the record, the panel consists of myself, I'm Dumisa Ntsebeza, head of the investigative unit, and a commissioner in the Human Rights Violations Committee. To my left, as I've indicated is Commissioner Glenda Wildschut, a commissioner and a member of the Rehabilitation and Reparations Committee. To my right is Mr Wilson Magadla, who is in the Operational Directorate of the Investigative Unit, he's head of Special Investigations. And on our extreme right, and it has nothing to do with her politics, is Christelle Terreblanche, and the name also should not associate her with her being on the right, far right, who is an investigator and has been collecting evidence in this matter. Thank you. Christelle?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Dr Klatzow, thank you for coming. You have both been asked to be a consultant on this matter, due to your expertise. We've also invited you to start off the proceedings by giving evidence and answering questions relative to the investigation in terms of to provide the commission with an expert analysis of the Margo Inquiry and the preceding Directorate of Civil Aviation Investigation into the 1987 Helderberg disaster. Also to explain your opinion on the nature of the substance on board the plane, how it came to be there and how it ignited, as well as to make recommendations on the most suitable way to find the true cause of the crash.

I don't know how you want to proceed, whether you want to make your representation and then afterwards we will ask you questions of clarification. Would that be in order?

DR KLATZOW: Yes. I would firstly like to say thank you very much for this opportunity to address you, Mr Commissioner, and I would like to suggest that I make the submission as a broad, overall picture, to give you an insight into the evidence, such as it was and such as it was led at the Press Council Hearing and at the Margo Inquiry. I would then like to indicate to you why it is that I have grave misgivings about the Margo Inquiry, and I would like to point out to you areas which were either totally ignored or deliberately glossed over, or in some instances where the wrong conclusions entirely were drawn by the commission of the time.

The way in which I would like, with your permission, to present the evidence, is to do so by means of a flip chart, which is in front of me, and Mr Commissioner, with your permission, I would like to stand in front of the desk and address yourselves.

CHAIRPERSON: Very well, Mr Klatzow.

DR KLATZOW: The story starts in November 1988, when an aircraft, the Helderberg, belonging to the South African Airways, took off from Chan Kai Shek airport in Taipei, ostensibly bound for Mauritius, with a cargo of passengers and goods.

The aircraft was a 747 manufactured by Boeing, and it was in a configuration known as the kombi design. What this means is that somewhere on the main deck of the aircraft, the deck normally inhabited by passengers, a partition was placed and cargo was carried on that main deck, as opposed to being carried in the hold. The consequences of carrying the cargo on the main deck were unfortunate and have led, both prior to the accident and subsequent to the accident, in a revision of the policy of carrying cargo and passengers on the main deck, for reasons that will become apparent as my narrative unfolds.

The aircraft took off an hour or more late from Taipei, for reasons that have never been fully satisfactorily canvassed or understood.

The take-off was uneventful, we are led to believe, and, as is normal with aircraft flights, the aircraft would have entered into a climbing phase of its journey and there-after it would have levelled out in normal cruise and it would have passed through various flight information zones on its way to the next touchdown, which would have been Plaisance Airport in Mauritius.

Now I would like to divert from the main course to explain to you how the air communications aboard South African aircraft work. There are the normal radio communications between aircraft and between stations which are within easy radio distance, a few hundred to a few thousand kilometres, but carried aboard every aircraft in the South African overseas fleet is a means of communicating between the pilot and the cockpit crew and a station at Johannesburg International Airport as it was then known, Jan Smuts Airport, called ZUR, now if you could write down the initial ZUR, it is the call sign of that radio station at Johannesburg Airport. That radio station is manned 24 hours a day with a number of shifts and was equipped with a tape recorder which was of unique design.

Each tape recording occupied approximately 24 to 26 hours, and as the tape recording neared the end of its session, the next tape would automatically come into play and there would be a period, a short period, of overlap between the two tapes, so that nothing was lost. The coming into play of the second tape would be heralded by a warning signal and the staff would be able to change the previous tape over so that it was always in readiness should there be something untoward that happened.

As each tape was completed, and these are not cassette tapes, these are large tapes which cannot be played on just any old tape recorder, but they are large tapes which come in a box and on the box is an information card detailing the nature of the material on that tape. As each tape is finished and recorded, it is taken and stored in a locked cabinet and there are somewhere between 30 and 33 or 34 of these tapes, so that at any one time there is 30 days of taped conversations with the air crew of the South African Airways overseas fleet on record.

CHAIRPERSON: So does this relate only to overseas trips?

DR KLATZOW: I thin it relates only to overseas tapes, because there are other means of communication internally where you would not have to use ZUR, but there is no reason why an aircraft fitted with the necessary radio equipment on an internal flight could not use the ZUR tape, but it is primarily to keep track of the overseas fleet.

Now let me examine, also as part of the diversion, the functions of ZUR. There is no doubt that to run an operation such as this is expensive, both in terms of money and in terms of personnel, and there is no doubt that the degree of security and the extent to which the tapes are carefully guarded, renders it an important operation, and particularly so should anything untoward happen aboard any aircraft.

There are set operating principles and guidelines which are contained in the operators manual and which every operator is expected to familiarise himself with prior to working at ZUR, and those standing instructions involve inter alia the frequencies at which calls are expected to be made and the procedure should calls not be made on time to be followed by the staff at ZUR.

I will deal in detail later on in my presentation with the attitude of South African Airways and of various pilots and other staff members to the radio station at ZUR, but suffice it to say this is an important station. The care in its setting up and the time and financial trouble to maintain it bespeak of an important function, and that function is not difficult to find.

If it were so that an aircraft should experience trouble or should experience some life-threatening emergency, it is important that the home base should know about these emergencies. It's of little use to the passengers and crew aboard an aircraft which has had some accident to know that the first steps towards the resolution of the accident will be taken only once the plane becomes late, either at its next way-point or late in arriving at its home town.

There is no doubt that ZUR's function is considerably more than that which has been alluded to and suggested and told to me by the radio staff and by the staff of SAA, who have consistently, in the period of time that I've investigated this case, tried to suggest to me that Radio ZUR fulfilled no other function than for the pilot to notify the home base to have a wheelchair ready or at there was no water aboard the aircraft or that they'd run out of face towels or the like.

I will revert to the Radio ZUR tape in due course, but let us get back to the main thrust of my presentation to you.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Just a quick question, you mention frequency, are you talking about radio frequency... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: No.

MS TERREBLANCHE: ...or the number of times... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: I'm talking about the number of times. The frequencies which ZUR operated were well-known and were operated on by these people and they were frequencies which were assigned to the radio station and to the aircraft concerned.

Incidentally, there was also a facility aboard the aircraft called sel-call, which is short for selective call, which is rather like a radio paging system whereby the parties at Johannesburg Airport could, by dialling in a code, contact a particular aircraft and draw its attention to the fact that they wished to make a communication with it. Sel-call, at the Johannesburg Airport at the time, was not functioning, but there were ways of by-passing this, either by means of making use of another airline's selective call apparatus, or by making other efforts to raise the aircraft, all of which procedures were enshrined in the operators manual.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Dr Klatzow, just one clarification, I have been told by some people I've interviewed that there is no international law obligation for SAA to have had such a radio tower. Can you (inaudible)?

DR KLATZOW: Yes, there is no radio, there is no obligation, but the fact is that SAA had such a radio, and it was clearly important in function, important enough, to have it manned 24 hours a day with a 24 hour tape recording, which is not the sort of thing that you would use for purely administrative functions aboard the aircraft, such as having a wheelchair ready for disabled passengers on landing.

Now, the Helderberg took off, we know, from Taipei, and we know that it proceeded, according to the Margo Inquiry, on its merry way until shortly before the top of descent into Mauritius... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: How long ordinarily would that journey have taken?

DR KLATZOW: That journey to Mauritius would have taken about eight or nine hours. The aircraft took off from Taipei, as I said, about an hour and some minutes late, and it took off at 14:23, if my memory serves me correctly, from Chan Kai Shek Airport in Taipei, and you must bear in mind all along that there is a six hour difference approximately between the time which we are dealing with here and the time on the ground in Taipei, so whatever the time in Taipei was, it was six hours later here.

Now, just after two o'clock in Taipei would make it just after seven o'clock in South Africa, which was just about the time that the shift changed at ZUR and just about the time that the tapes were changed, that the new tape came into operation and the old tape was put in the filing cabinet.

Now what is very interesting is that there is another tape recording which is of crucial importance, and that tape recording is the cockpit voice recorder, which I shall refer to as the CVR. The cockpit voice recorder is a wire recorder, instead of using the plastic magnetic tapes today, these recorders in aircraft are usually wire recorders, and this one was located in the rear of the aircraft and recorded continuously the last half hour of conversation in the cockpit.

That cockpit voice recorder was recovered from the depths of the ocean and was transcribed at great expense, and an official version of the CVR, which is almost 30 minutes long, exists and was available to the Margo Inquiry at the time. It records a conversation in the cockpit along the normal lines of what men will normally talk about during period of long inactivity and often substantial boredom, and it comes as no surprise to learn that the first 20 odd minutes of the tape were involved in discussing inter alia women. Nothing surprising and nothing at all particularly upsetting to anybody, even close family members, who might have chosen to listen to that tape. There was no embarrassing component, there was no obscene component, there was idle chit-chat about an attractive woman, and what is more important, there was the discussion on the cockpit voice recorder which is in the official version of a dinner being served in the cockpit.

Now, the cockpit voice recorder takes it input from the cockpit and that input runs along the crown of the aircraft, in the roof, to the back of the aircraft, along the power supply, and that power supply enables the tape recorder to function. We know that the tape recorder stopped functioning because a fire burnt through the cable supplying it and cut off both the input from the cockpit... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: If I can interrupt you just a little?

TAPE GOES DEAD FOR A PERIOD

CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Dr Klatzow.

DR KLATZOW: Right. As I was saying, the cockpit voice recorder records the last half hour of conversation and included in that half hour of conversation was discussion of a dinner, I'll allude further to that after I've told you this, the cockpit voice recorder stopped functioning because of the effects of a fire.

Now it comes as no surprise to know that the normal way in which a flight operates is as follows: after take-off and after the cruising altitude has been attained, it is invariable on overseas flights that a bar service, followed by a hot meal, is then served to the passengers. That bar service, on a 747, could take anything between half to three-quarters of an hour, and the subsequent serving of dinner could take about the same amount of time. Depending on the amount of administrative work in the cockpit, the crew, once they had settled down to the flight, would be served a meal from the first class lounge and would enjoy that meal. There are several aspects which lead me to believe, and incidentally not alone, that a meal was being served.

The first is that Captain Uys refers to something and says, "I should rather not try that, because I'm going to have troubles afterwards". This probably refers to a seafood meal and probably refers to the fact that Captain Uys, who was the captain of the Helderberg, was allergic to seafood and it caused him to have intense problems with his skin as a result of a medical condition.

The second comment made in the cockpit, shortly before the fire bell goes off, is the normal disparaging comments that people make about an official meal. Somebody says they're hungry and they wish they were about to get dinner. Somebody else looks at what has been served out and refers to it as the same old junk food, and comments of that nature.

Now the importance of that is that, if the tape recorder stopped functioning, and if the tape recorder stopped functioning as a result of a fire, that fire must have been within a half an hour, or the meal must have occurred within the half hour of the tape recorded conversation.

I have never been on a flight, nor do I know of any flight where a meal is served immediately prior to descent into the port of call, so it would be extremely unlikely that the meal being referred to on the cockpit voice recorder was being served at the top of descent into Mauritius, and so inadvertently at that point, because we are led to believe that the fire occurred just outside Mauritius and therefore inadvertently the meal occurred just before the fire bell sounded outside Mauritius, in my view that is extremely unlikely.

The unlikeliness of this being the case is given further impetus and support by the attitude of both South African Airways and the staff with whom I have spoken, as well as the attitude evinced by Mr Justice Margo at the original inquiry.

If I could read to you the exact transcript of Margo at the original inquiry, you will see what it is that I am referring to, so if you will bear with me - do you have a copy of the original inquiry?

MS TERREBLANCHE: I have a copy. We can make it available.

DR KLATZOW: If you turn to page 55 of the original Margo report, the following interchange between the chairman, a pilot by the name of Tony Viljoen and the prosecutor leading the evidence, one Mr Southwood who is now a judge of the supreme court, takes place:-

"Mr Chairman..."

says Mr Southwood:-

"...I have been informed that Captain Van Heerden (sic) of the South African Pilots Association is present. He omitted to announce his presence and would like the opportunity to do so.

CAPTAIN VILJOEN: Thank you, Mr Chairman, I am Tony Viljoen and I represent the International Federation of Airline Pilots Association, known as IFAPA.

CHAIRMAN: We are about to hear an excerpt from the CVR tape, not from the tape itself, but from a transcript. Have you any submissions to make about that tape?

CAPTAIN VILJOEN: Sir, the reading of the tape into the record we do not object to.

CHAIRMAN: The whole of the tape?

CAPTAIN VILJOEN: As far as pertinent conversation between the pilot and the air traffic control, as far as it applies to the full accident investigation, we have no objection at this stage.

CHAIRMAN: Well what are you objecting to?

CAPTAIN VILJOEN: Nothing at all, not at this point.

CHAIRMAN: Well, can the whole of the cockpit voice recorder be played in open court, because you're objecting to nothing?

CAPTAIN VILJOEN: Sir, I would agree to that.

MARGO: I do not want to encourage you into an objection which you do not want to make, but we will notice that you will take the point that confidential portions of the conversation should not be played in public."

Now, with the greatest of respect, that is bizarre. There is nothing on the first part of the tape to give offence to anybody, there is no objection from IFAPA, and yet Margo goes out of his way to make certain that the first 28 minutes of the tape are not played to the commission, and I would respectively submit to you that the reason is quite clear, on that first 28 minutes is the discussion of dinner. Once you accept that the discussion of dinner is on the tape, you must ask yourself the following questions: it becomes trite logic that that tape recording was made shortly after take-off and not before the descent into Mauritius. Now why is that important? Airline pilots who reach the standard of flying 747's around the world do so because they have been trained to an extraordinarily high level. I use the word "trained" advisedly. You train an animal, a human, to behave in a certain way without thinking, you train troops to obey without question, and the airline pilots are not experimental people, they don't try out new things in the air, they follow tried and tested means of dealing with everything. So that if there was a fire or an emergency or a blocked toilet, there is a way of dealing with it, which has been dealt with before, and that way is to take open or to find out what the cockpit operating manual says and to follow those instructions implicitly, and the cockpit instructions for a fire are quite - if there is a fire on board, you are expected as a pilot to make every effort to put it out. Having put out the fire, you are expected to land immediately at the nearest suitable airfield. And the reasons are not hard to fathom. A fire may have done considerable damage structurally to the aircraft, and that aircraft may not be fit to fly on, and therefore your primary duty to the aircraft, to its carriers and to the passengers, is to get to a point of safety as fast as possible after a fire.

If the fire occurred outside Taipei, as was strongly suggested by the cockpit voice recorder, then we must ask why it is that Captain Dawie Uys did not land that aircraft as quickly as he could after he'd got the fire out, presuming of course that he got the fire out?

It is likely that they dealt with the fire, because it is extremely unlikely that an aircraft flew for seven hours with an active fire aboard, only to be destroyed outside Mauritius.

It is also extremely likely that, having dealt with the fire, Uys would have notified the parties who knew about these things at ZUR. It is very likely that he would have told them that he had a fire. It is very likely that he would have explained to them that he was taking the aircraft down to see that there was no structural damage, or damage to the controls of the aircraft. And yet he didn't do that, he flew on.

Now, why is it that a pilot of Captain Uys' experience would have flown on after a fire? And I have now accepted that a fire did occur within two to two and a half hours of Taipei. The answer to my question lies in South African Airways' position in the world in 1988, and in South African Airways' position at the time. It is not difficult to remember back that in 1988 we were deep into the reign of P W Botha and that South Africa had never made it past the Rubicon and that we were still the pariahs of the world. South African Airways had limited rights to fly the inter-national airways and we as a nation were justifiably despised throughout the civilised world. If Uys had landed his aircraft, the only suitable airfields on that leg of the flight would have belonged to nations who were politically hostile to South Africa at the time, and if Uys had landed an intact aircraft at Bombay or anyone of a number of airfields, the first thing that would have happened was that a ground engineer would have examined that aircraft and an investigation into the nature of the fire and the contents of the hold would have been top priority. If Uys didn't land, despite the regulations requesting him to land, and despite the dire need to land, there must have been overwhelmingly important considerations, and possibly even instructions when prevented this from happening. We know that that would have been typically something which would have been discussed on ZUR, and yet the tape of that day, after the take-off, the new tape, has inexplicably gone missing. The tape of the next day was there, the tape of the take-off was there, and only the tape of that crucial period in between those two tapes has gone missing.

Now, let us look what Margo did to investigate that, and the answer is a stunning nothing. He mentions that he would like to ask questions of somebody who could allow this to happen, he never does. He truncates the cross-examination of Mr Vernon Nadel, who was the man operating that tape, just as the cross-examination was starting to bear fruit, and most inexplicable of all, the very next witness, Captain Jimmy...

TAPE TURNS OVER - WORDS LOST:

...is that so important, and if you put a reference mark there, I will revert to it in due course.

Margo's finding at the end of the Margo Inquiry was that the tape had inexplicably been misplaced or it had been overtaped. With great respect, this doesn't bear even the most casual scrutiny. If the tape had been overtaped, it would have been a matter of great simplicity for an official of South African Airways to bring the overtaped physical evidence of the tape to Margo and say to him, "Judge, there is the tape, for some reason it got out of sequence and we overtaped it". That was never done. So we must presume that that is not what happened to the tape.

If the tape went missing, it was a matter commonly explored by lawyers in the adversarial system of our courts to cross-examine all the parties involved with the custody of that tape and to retrace the steps of that path of that tape towards its eventual disappearance. That was never done. And the fact that Jimmy Deale was never questioned is inexplicable in the light of a conversation that I had with him during the inquest or the press council hearing into the Star newspaper which was conducted after a complaint by Armscor into certain newspaper articles which appeared in the popular press. My role in that investigation was to investigate as much as possible about the Helderberg and during that investigation, late one evening I tracked Jimmy Deale down to his home in Durban, I phoned him up and I tape recorded the subsequent conversation, which went along the lines of, "Captain Deale, my name is Dr Klatzow, I'm investigating the Helderberg, I know you signed out the tape and the log book from ZUR that night, what did you do with it?", and his answer, after some prevarication, was that he had signed it out and that he had handed it to none other than Captain Mickey Mitchell, who was in the presence of the chief executive officer of the airline, one Gert van der Veer, and the legal representatives of the airline, one Advocate Malherbe. I phoned Captain Mickey Mitchell, who was in charge of ZUR that night, and again, amidst stunning prevarication, he finally agreed that he had received the tape and that he would have passed it on to somebody senior. Now why was that never explored by Judge Margo?

CHAIRPERSON: Now was this Mr Mitchell of recent origin?

DR KLATZOW: Sorry?

CHAIRPERSON: Was this engagement with Mr Mitchell, where you were coaxing him to, you know, to come out with what had happened to the tape, was this fairly recently?

DR KLATZOW: Four years ago.

CHAIRPERSON: Oh, four years ago. But even then he had eventually gone off to say the tape was there?

DR KLATZOW: Yes. Oh, there's no doubt that the tape was there that night, the tape was removed from ZUR that night by the pilots and it was given into the hands of senior SAA officials.

If one looks at the DCA, that's the Department of Civil Aviation, their duty is clear, their mandate is to impound immediately all tapes, documentation, records, anything of importance to an aircraft accident.

DCA was in charge, was under the control, at the time, of Mr Rennie van Zyl. Mr Rennie van Zyl informed me then, and again more recently, that he had spoken to a pilot by the name of Du Toit, and that Du Toit had assured him that there was nothing untoward on the missing tape. This assurance had allayed Rennie van Zyl's fears, and he sent Roy Downs, some three or four weeks later, to impound this tape, after rumours already, at that stage, had surfaced that there was more to the missing tape than met the eye. Now, Captain Du Toit should be asked how come it was that he got to listen to the tape and what his knowledge of the tape was.

Let me turn to another factor which suggests that something untoward had happened earlier on in the evening of that fateful night. The pervious member manning ZUR was a man also coincidentally by the name of Du Toit, he was due to sign off at some time after six, possibly even seven o'clock, on that evening, South African time, and yet at the Margo Inquiry he confirms under oath that he signed off at eight o'clock the next morning, the Saturday morning, this was a Friday night. If nothing had happened aboard the Helderberg until just before midnight our time, Du Toit would have been long gone after his shift from Radio ZUR and would have been at home, and there is no evidence of him having been recalled. The fact that Du Toit is still at ZUR by eight o'clock the next morning, having worked a double shift, suggests that at the termination of his shift something already was afoot to require his further presence at ZUR. It is inexplicable and the interpretation which I have put on it is undeniably correct on a high level of probability.

The man in charge of ZUR that night was a man called Vernon Nadel, N A D E L. Vernon Nadel was a lowly radio operator working in the bottom echelons of South African Airways. Today, and for the last 9 years, Vernon Nadel has been a manager of the SAA facility at Miami. He enjoyed a meteoric rise in fame and fortune within the airline in less than the time it takes to say Helderberg. His meteoric rise has never been satisfactorily answered, and when Nadel has, with great difficulty, been tracked down by either myself or members of the press, his answers have been evasive and strange, to say the least. He was tracked down by an investigator who worked for the SABC at the time, and he referred to a third man, Mr X, in the studios of ZUR that night. Why play cat and mouse if there's nothing to hide? The only thing worth hiding is nothing, and Nadel clearly was at pains to be uncooperative and to be evasive.

Let me get back to the missing tape and to the CVR recording, because they come together in another group of people's endeavours to find out what happened to the Helderberg. These people were the Flight Engineers Association, under the chairmanship of - I think they're under the chairmanship of Ray Scott, but I may be incorrect about that, but Ray Scott was certainly a member of that committee, as was a man called Judge Bedaar and another man called Jimmy Mouton. The Flight Engineers Association put together a report, in which they respectfully differed from the then current interpretation of the CVR, placing the fire close to Taipei for a number of reasons, not least of which were those that I've already outlined to you, but they expanded on these reasons by doing a detailed analysis of the events as they unfolded in the cockpit and they came to the conclusion that there simply wasn't enough time on the official record to do all the things that had been done, and therefore those things had been done earlier.

It was a report put together with honesty and with conviction and its acceptance by the Margo Commission should have been a formality. They were hindered by Margo from entering that report, having been told that it was too late for the official entry, despite the fact that it was within 48 hours of the deadline, on the right side of the deadline.

Jimmy Mouton was summoned to Margo's chambers, together with Judge Bedaar and Ray Scott, and were told, quote "to drop your line of inquiry. The country cannot afford for you to investigate this. It will cost the country 400 million rand and that for your career and safety's sake, drop it", end quote.

CHAIRPERSON: Now, was this by Margo, according to reports, or in his presence?

DR KLATZOW: The clarification of this I'm not certain of. According to Ray Scott, Margo was present, according - and there was more than one occasion on which this occurred - according to Mouton, Margo left the room in his chambers, but members of DCA and the legal representatives of SAA were present, and it is no coincidence that the reference to 400 million rand was about the price, with a little bit of small change, that a new 747 would have cost should Lloyds have declined to pay. The references to "the country cannot afford it" is capable of sinister interpretation, and it appears that a comment was also made in the same context that their investigation would be playing into the hands of the ANC, a strange comment.

Ray Scott met with me, after great difficulty, about four years ago, and my contemporaneous note of the time reads as follows:-

"He would not meet with me at my house or at his house, and after a tortuous event, reminiscent more of things that you read in the Forsythe novels, he finally met me at the Boulders Restaurant in Midrand on the 11th of the 4th, 1995."

And my note reads as follows, and I quote from the contemporaneous note:-

"Peter de Beer was the chairman of the Engineers Association. His family is in London. He flies now for Phoenix Air. He and Moutons and Judge Bedaar and Ray Scott were called in to Margo's chambers, told to drop their inquiry, could cost the country 400 million rand, they were causing tension, they were told they did not have the expertise..."

strange to say that to people who fly as a living in the cockpit:-

"...and that national security was at risk. Present were Mickey Mitchell, Margo, the airline lawyers and he thinks the DCA was there. Peter de Beer's family were threatened and Margo said to Ray Scott, quote "the safety of your future and family are at risk", end quote."

Now, if the flight engineers' interpretation was that of simple, ignorant, misguided do-gooders, the simplest thing for Margo to have done would have been allowed them to present this misguided report and allow it to be shredded on cross-examination. He chose not to do that, and chose, improperly in my view, to follow a course of threats and intimidation, and the reason, I would submit to you, is clear, that he realised that the South African Airways had been carrying contraband material in the form of military ordinance, and that that this lay at the heart of the explanation of the loss of the Helderberg.

Let me examine, as an aside, very briefly, the fortune of a gentleman called Mr Thinus Jakobs. Thinus Jakobs occupied a fairly lowly position in the freight - in South African Airways - and he was the freight manager at Taipei. He was the man who loaded the cargo aboard the Helderberg and he was the man who closed the door on Captain Dawie Uys that night, the last person on earth to see Uys alive. He too has been part of an economic miracle. He runs today, and has done since shortly after the crash, a thriving company called Crown Travel, extensively patronised by SAA, in well-appointed offices at Brummer Lake, and boasting an annual turnover of some millions of rands. It is not impossible that Mr Jakobs, by dint of hard work and extraordinary skill, could establish and prosper in the way that he has, but it is strange too that he is one of the people who has made a quantum leap in fortune, coinciding with the loss of the Helderberg.

Persistent rumours of Uys's unhappiness with the cargo on this and other occasions have been around since the aircraft was lost. I'm aware that the attorney-general has information which supports part of that statement that I've made to you.

Mrs Uys was never called to the Margo Inquiry, she was never questioned, despite the fact that these rumours had gained currency well before Margo chaired that inquiry.

CHAIRPERSON: I missed that, what were the rumours, the persistent rumours?

DR KLATZOW: That Captain Uys had expressed dissatis-faction... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: Oh yes.

DR KLATZOW: ...about the sort of cargo that he was asked to carry.

CHAIRPERSON: And had actually refused to want to carry it.

DR KLATZOW: Those were the rumours. And the rumours were that he had been coerced into flying this fatal flight.

We know that a close relationship existed between South African Airways and Armscor, in that they were both parastatals, they were both deeply involved in fighting the holy war against the ungodly, by virtue of the type of personnel which were involved.

We know that South African Airways was involved in sanctions busting, and that they did not stoop to involve themselves, or rather they did not hesitate to involve themselves in assisting Armscor wherever and whenever was possible.

We know of a number of incidents, and before I tell you of these incidents, let me tell you that my research into this over the last five or six years has come across a common factor: everybody involved centrally, peripherally or even on the extreme margins, has been frightened to death. There is no doubt in my mind that acts of intimidation have been applied to these people to inhibit them from coming forward, and if SAA should ever make a submission to you that it is unlikely that an organisation as large as SAA could be so watertight for so long, I want to remind you, Mr Commissioner, that we had a bunch of institutionalised, organised, efficient and ruthless scoundrels called the South African Police Force, who raped, robbed and murdered their way around this country for 25 years without anybody breaking ranks, so I don't accept that the enormity of the crimes that I'm talking about would necessarily have reached the surface, but every single person to whom I've spoken has been a terrified individual.

Now the incidents to which I'm referring to, are several, but write down the name of Captain Flippie Looch, L O O C H. The conversation I had with him is not without its moment of wry drama and amusement, because I asked him to comment on the following: it was alleged that Captain Flippie Looch had parked his 747 on the apron at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, and that labourers loading cargo had dropped an item of cargo and out rolled rockets. Now rockets normally shouldn't be carried on board civilian aircraft, and I asked Captain Looch to comment, having first spoken to John Hare, the deputy chief executive officer of South African Airways, and Hare was kind of non-committal and Looch was adamant in his refusal to talk to me, until I said to him, "Mr Looch, but I've spoken to SAA and they said that these were in fact not rockets, but they were drop tanks for mirages and that you didn't know the difference", and his childish ego was stung into reply, "But of course I knew the difference, I called my co-pilot and I said, `Look at these'", I said, "Thank you Captain Looch", and I wrote it in my report. That happened to Deon Storm, a pilot in the same position and at the same airport. If they were Mirage drop tanks, the pilots would have known, if they were not contraband and dangerous, SAA would have said, "But they were empty rocket shells, what is the harm of carrying them?" They never did.

We also know, and I name another name you should bear in mind, is the name of Bingo Kruger. Bingo Kruger has a shady past. He worked inter alia for Armscor in the development of South Africa's much vaunted nuclear project. Bingo Kruger has confirmed to me that SAA would not hesitate to transport goods if they deemed it in the national interest, despite the fact that it would not comply with IATA regulations.

Now, let's get back to the Margo report. My involvement in the Margo report started shortly after the loss of the aircraft, in that I was appointed by the attorneys acting for the Boeing Aircraft Company to investigate an aspect which I didn't fully understand the reasons for at the time. That aspect was the levels of carbon monoxide in the recovered bodies. And having done the work, I then started to follow the inquiry a little more closely, and the one thing that was certain is that there were three or four parties who participated in that inquiry, each of whom had their own agenda.

There was Boeing. Boeing's agenda was simply this, they were there to forestall and ward off any criticism of their aircraft. They weren't interested in anything else, all they wanted was to make certain that no criticism of the 747 came unchallenged in the way of Boeing.

There was the Airline Pilots Association who were represented there. They had one aim in mind, and that was to forestall any criticism of their members, and I'm going to come back to that, because it's important.

There was SAA, who was there to forestall any possible criticism of SAA, and nobody in particular was actually trying to find out what happened.

If you read the full transcript of the Margo report, you will see that a vast amount of time and trouble was spent on utterly irrelevant things. It was irrelevant to that inquiry as to whether the aircraft broke up in mid-air or on impact. The fact is that the loss of that aircraft was causally and directly linked to a fire on board, and that fire, we know, worldwide experience has shown that that is invariably, a fire on board an aircraft like that, in the position in which it occurred, relates to some material which should not have been aboard that aircraft, because the things which you are normally allowed to carry on an aircraft don't catch fire, and I'll get back to the cargo manifest and discuss that a little later, but the real issue is that an inordinate amount of time was spent debating whether the engines were turning. Experts from the Pratt and Whitney(?) plant were called and cross-examined and testified as to whether those fans were under power when they hit the water. With respect, Mr Commissioner, it's irrelevant. What is relevant is what was aboard that aircraft and how did it come to be there, to catch fire?

Now let's look at that point. Fire investigators in the world today are, if they came under the attention of the Wild Life Association, we would be considered as a group to be a threatened species, because there are very few. You can number the number of fire investigators in Great Britain on the fingers of a mutilated hand. I'm talking about the good ones. In the world today there exist very few firms of reputable fire investigators, but pre-eminent amongst those is a firm called Dr J H Burgoyne and Partners.

Now Dr Burgoyne was an academic in the United Kingdom about 35 years ago and he realised that there was a need for fire investigation and he formed a firm of fire investigators, which persists to this day, who, in my opinion, are the best in the world. They are conservative, they are competent, they are intelligent and they're informed, and they're extremely good.

The man in that firm who specialised in aircraft accidents and aircraft fires was a man by the name of Mr Southeard, S O U T H E A R D. Mr Southeard was called to testify. He was properly sworn in before Margo and he was properly cross-examined and his evidence stood the test of that, it was not dented or diminished in any way, and he came to the conclusion that the fire aboard the Helderberg was not an ordinary diffusion flame fire.

Now I'm sure that the commission, or I would think that the commission is not quite up to speed on the difference between an accelerated fire and a diffusion flame fire, and if you indicate to me, I would explain the difference to you.

CHAIRPERSON: Please do.

DR KLATZOW: Does anybody have a cigarette lighter here?

CHAIRPERSON: Christelle would obviously have.

DR KLATZOW: We have a smoking member of the commission. I'm going to suggest that I approach the commission, show you, and repeat it onto the tape when I get back.

When I light a flame, the gas inside there has to come out, oxygen from there has to diffuse in and you have a flame. The heat output of that flame is limited by the speed at which oxygen can diffuse from the air into the active part of the flame. Now that's called diffusion. If you have a fire involving packaging material, wood, (indistinct - moved away from mike), plastic, you get a diffusion flame, and it is rare that the temperature gets higher than just under 1 000C. The temperatures on board the Helderberg exceeded that by far, and the reason is that it wasn't a diffusion flame, and that is the crucial conclusion that was drawn by Southeard. The small geometry and the high heat output told him it was not a diffusion flame, and it had to be a promoted fire, and the thing is, they carry their own oxygen, they don't need oxygen (indistinct).

Now, the person called by Margo to deal with fires, and he was the only proper fire expert who was sworn in and cross-examined by the commission, was Mr Southeard. His conclusion was that the fire aboard the Helderberg was not a diffusion type fire and it was caused by a contraband substance or an illicit cargo, which was a promoted fire, that is to say it carried its own oxygen with it and did not require the presence of atmospheric oxygen to enable it to burn. He was undented in cross-examination and his evidence was unblemished.

In answer to this, Margo elicited a few comments from a Mr Hill, who was never sworn in and never properly cross-examined and never gave his testimony under oath, and Margo ignored the crucial element in Southeard's finding that it was a promoted fire, inexplicably, in my view.

We know that the fire occurred in the foremost right-hand pallet on the passenger deck. We know, from the cargo manifest, which has inexplicably become available, and which appeared to be shredded shortly after the accident, in Taipei, inexplicably shredded, I might add, we know that the kind of things that were officially listed in that pallet, PR would not burn, they would not do what happened aboard the Helderberg that night. Spare parts for bicycles and shoes, and things of that nature, simply do not burn with that ferocity, and do not spontaneously ignite. Why did Margo ignore this? The answer is a mystery to me, unless Margo himself was involved in deflecting that inquiry away from its true purpose.

Sorry, do you want to break? I see that... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: In fact it's a very convenient time for us to take a 15 minute break, if it is convenient for you. We'll break for 15 minutes, we'll resume at quarter past eleven.

COMMITTEE ADJOURNS

ON RESUMPTION:

DR KLATZOW: (still under oath)

Thank you, Mr Commissioner. Now, I had reached the portion by saying to you that everything that we have dealt with to date points to an untoward incident having occurred aboard the Helderberg. It points to an untoward incident having occurred at an early stage of the Helderberg's flight, and more importantly it points inexorably in the direction of a major cover-up on the part of the commission or at best stunning incompetency on their behalf.

Let us look at the possible causes of this crash, and let me put to you a scenario which will fit, in my view, with respect, the facts as I've outlined them to you. In the late period of 1988 and '87, it will be remembered that the closing stages of the so-called war in Angola were being fought. South African troops were deep into Angola, despite official denials, and the South African military and air force were engaged in hotly contending that country's existence with East Bloc operatives who were working with the Angolans at the time.

If you remember, it was a time when South African Airforce had lost, and had been forced to reluctantly concede that they had lost a number of mirage fighters to the new Mig aircraft which were making their appearance in growing numbers. It seems to be that there was a problem at the time with either the air to air or the surface to air missiles and that South Africa was having some difficulty in dealing with these problems.

You must also remember that Armscor, far from being the innovative giant that it claimed to have been, were on the level of petty criminals when it came to stealing intellectual property. If you look at the Armscor weaponry, much vaunted as it is, much of the sophistication and innovation is purloined from anybody who could be parted from it. Even the modern rifle which supplies the South African Defence Force, the R4, has its origins in the humble AK47, albeit with the Israeli intervention in between of the Galil(?) weapon. We know that Armscor would not scruple to beg, borrow, steal if necessary, any technology which it deemed necessary to the continuation of their holy war.

We believe that there was a necessity to develop better rocket propellants at the time. Now a rocket propellant is not just something that you can walk down to the local 7-11 and buy. The basic ingredients are well-known, but the added ingredients, the subtle ingredients which give it its extra performance, need to be either developed at great time and cost, or they need to be obtained another way. Those subtle ingredients which are added to the rocket fuel, the major component of which is ammonium perchlorate, are very important, and once one has a rocket fuel which works, it is a matter of chemical simplicity, relatively speaking, to analyse that rocket fuel and determine the constituents which give it its added zip.

We believe, those who have investigated this crash, who are not involved with the government of the day, believe that South Africa was importing, and had been importing for some time, military ordnance of this nature aboard passenger aircraft. We believe that it is the ammonium perchlorate that was being brought in, either to be used, but more likely to be copied, that spontaneously ignited that night and created the problem. It fits the bill inasmuch as it contains its own oxygen, it is supremely unstable and it is quite unfit to be transported aboard an aircraft, let alone a civilian aircraft carrying innocent passengers.

TAPE CHANGED - POSSIBLE WORDS LOST:

...believe that Southeard pointed to this fact and that Margo ignored it.

We believe that the reason that Uys did not land was because he was told not to land by senior officials of either the government or the airline.

We believe that he had thought that he had extinguished that fire, only to be reconfronted with it outside Mauritius, by which time his ability to fight it was impaired and the structural integrity of the aircraft was impaired to such an extent that the aircraft disappeared into the ocean.

We believe that that conversation asking for permission to land and being refused permission to land was recorded at ZUR and that that is why the tape went missing, not that it was inexplicably overtaped, which it wasn't, for reasons that I've outlined to you, or mislaid, for the same reasons that I've outlined to you.

We believe that the clue to this lies in the conversation about dinner, which Margo was at pains to exclude from his inquiry.

We believe that the airline knew all along what it was transporting, and were complicent in a cover-up of major proportions.

We believe that Armscor knows about this, and I believe that it is no coincidence that Mr John Hare, a senior man at Armscor, is now the deputy chief executive officer of South African Airways.

We believe that these versions that I've put to you are not far-fetched, we believe they're founded in fact, and part of the fact is the failure to adequately explore these versions of the Margo Commission. The failure of Margo to call Moutons and his engineers, and the intimidation by Margo and his investigators of this group of people is grotesque. His unwillingness to include a proper investi-gation into the nature of the material aboard is strange, to say the least.

The pieces of information relating to the missing ZUR tape all point to the fact that it was deliberately removed from ZUR that night and disappeared from a locked safe, after being placed in the hands of senior SAA officials.

The performance of the Department of Civil Aviation in this inquiry, and you will hear in the Machel inquiry as well, was, at the very best for them, dismal, and probably they were involved in the complicity.

The involvement of various key South African personnel in both the original disaster and in the subsequent inquiry was manipulated in such a way as to prevent them from ever being able to tell the truth.

The statement of Jimmy Mitten needs to be taken seriously. His analysis is not that of an amateur, he is a professional member of the cockpit crew and has been for many, many years. His interpretation of what went on in that cockpit must be taken seriously.

The failure of the Airline Pilots Association to make public their findings, which have been confirmed to me by numerous pilots, must be investigated.

The role played by Theunis Jakobs, who as recently as a few years ago made a comment that he had taken files from the Taipei station which could materially affect the outcome of the inquiry, this was made to a man whose name I will give you, who is a photographer and who will be prepared to say what I have just told you under oath, his name is Marais Wessels, he works for a company called Vision by Light, and he made a statement to me last week to the effect that:-

"I spoke to Jakobs because he and I were good friends. I saw him after the Helderberg. He told me that he had material, and I would say this under oath."

He also told me that he was at Singapore doing a film shoot for SAA when a senior member of the SAA staff spoke to Mike van Rensburg, who was the cargo agent in Singapore and quote, "Said that the Armscor containers appeared to be going okay. They were being shipped out under the title of hairdryers". Now it could be that Armscor have got a major problem in curling their hair, I think it unlikely. I think that the practice of shipping illegal Armscor material aboard SAA passenger airliners has continued until recently.

I think that, in my view, the Margo inquiry was such a travesty of anything that an inquiry ought to be that it needs to be re-opened, with people who seriously wish to get at the truth and who do not wish to allow the embarrassment of the government or the parastatals to stand in their way. These are the people who should conduct the next inquiry, and I think that Mr Maharaj needs to be urged with every fibre that you can summon to re-open the investigation and to launch a proper judicial inquiry to establish the truth of what went on that night in the Helderberg.

And I would like to close my submission to you by just drawing you a diagram which you will be able to use to understand the inter-relationship of two things, the cockpit voice recorder and the air traffic control recording made at Plaisance, together with the ZUR tape. So let me do that and if you want to, you can make a note of the drawing that I give you.

The aircraft took off at Taipei, it reached a cruising altitude and it flew on. Somewhere outside Mauritius, instead of the proper descent into Mauritius, it plunged precipitously into the ocean. Just before it went into the ocean, a conversation was had with air traffic control outside Mauritius. That conversation is available. The last 20 minutes or 30 minutes of the cockpit voice recorder should have recorded that, because the air traffic control tape starts off by saying, "This is Springbok 265, we have a smoke problem". That's the beginning, we would have believed, of the problem. Now if the cockpit voice recorder was still working, which it should have been after the smoke problem, because it went out thereafter, we should have a part of that conversation on the CVR. There is none, there is not a word of that Plaisance conversation on the CVR. What we do have is a cockpit voice recorder involving a conversation about dinner. Dinner would have been served somewhere along there, which means that if the cockpit voice recorder involved dinner, the cockpit voice recorder was operating here and ceased to function at that point. We believe that somewhere round about here, the new ZUR tape would have come in, and that would have involved the conversation between Uys and ZUR.

CHAIRPERSON: That is now in Jo'burg Airport?

DR KLATZOW: At Jo'burg Airport. The missing ZUR tape was never adequately dealt with by Margo, in fact he went to great effort to make certain that that ZUR tape was never properly investigated. Had that ZUR tape genuinely had nothing on it, there would have been no finer way of defusing the rumours and speculations than to say to everybody, "There's the tape, listen to it and apologise". They never did that. The tape was taken out that night, it didn't inexplicably go missing. There's no doubt that Jimmy Deale took that tape out and gave it to Mickey Mitchell. All of those men sat in the inquiry and heard the deliberations about what had happened to the tape. It was a matter of one sentence for Jimmy Deale to stand up before the commission and say, "M'Lord, I took out that tape, I gave it to Mickey Mitchell, Mickey Mitchell did something with it", and then to ask Mickey Mitchell, the tracing of the steps of that tape would have been legally simplistic. It was never done. And everything to date points to an involvement of some type of military ordnance aboard that aircraft and to a massive cover-up to conceal that from the relatives, the insurers and the public of South Africa.

Thank you for having listened to my presentation.

CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Dr Klatzow. Do you have any questions to put?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Does the panel have any questions at this stage?

CHAIRPERSON: Ms Terreblanche, if you have questions to put, you can put them.

MS TERREBLANCHE: You have been also asked to look into the level of, if I have it right, mono... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Carbon monoxide.

MS TERREBLANCHE: ...carbon monoxide.

DR KLATZOW: Ja.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Now, do you think that the tests done on the bodies that were found after the crash were sufficient and what is your interpretation of the tests?

DR KLATZOW: Well firstly the tests have very little relevance into the cause of the crash. If the, the cause of the crash is the fire, whether the fire killed them by burning through the control cables, damaging the aircraft so it fell apart, or poisoning the crew, is a minor detail. It is a detail which might be useful in redesigning the aircraft at a future stage, but it is not germane to the point of what was aboard the aircraft at the time and how did it get there. That's the first thing.

The second thing is that Harold Schroeder, who did the original test, did so on a mixture of blood, seawater and body fluid. The literature is eloquent in saying that this is the inappropriate fluids to use for the determination of carboxi-haemoglobin, which is the compound formed when carbon monoxide combines with haemoglobin, and Margo accepted Schroeder's work, although the literature is clear in condemning the type of fluid that he did it on.

So I would say that Schroeder's work was inaccurate, or potentially inaccurate, and that it was probably not the carbon monoxide, because we have a perfectly coherent Captain Uys discussing things with Plaisance moments before he goes into the water. Now I don't think it was carbon monoxide that killed Uys or his crew. It may very well have killed the passengers, because you must remember, and I hate to disabuse you of the reassurance that the airlines wish you to fly with, when they drop the little bag down, all it does is recirculates, with a little bit of oxygen added, the cabin atmosphere. So if there are poisonous gases in the cabin, you'll die with an enriched oxygen content. It's worse than useless. It is only useful if there is an inadvertent decompression of the cabin without toxic gases.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Just to end that, but is there any indication of what the bodies that were found died of?

DR KLATZOW: Well, that plane probably went into the ocean at 400 knots. There is no way that anybody could survive impact of that nature. The bodies were mutilated to an extraordinary extent, consistent with a high velocity impact with the ocean. So, from that point of view, I don't think there's anything sinister about that, although there's been a lot of conjecture, but there's more than enough things to have killed them without looking for anything arcane.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Are you familiar with the CSIR tests done for the investigation at the time?

DR KLATZOW: Just remind which the tests were? There were tests done by Martin Venter, the Bureau of Standards. Are those the ones you're referring to? Ja. Martin Venter put up a suggestion that there might have been fireworks aboard, only to have his own skittles knocked down, there was never any substantial evidence that was in any way substantiable that Martin Venter's investigations could sustain.

Many things were looked at, the presence of lithium batteries, which can under some circumstances cause ignition, but none of them deal with the essential finding of Greg Southeard's report that it was an accelerated fire, it was not packaging material which caused that damage.

MS TERREBLANCHE: There were also at the time limited tests done on little pieces of metal, or traces of metal found embedded in the upholstery? 

DR KLATZOW: I haven't taken that any further. At the time we looked at it and I could see nothing substantial which I could use to interpret the accident one way or the other. It may well be that that needs to be relooked at.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I think you're familiar with the submission we got from a journalist, who wished to remain anonymous on the record, who have done an eight month investigation and feel that there is a good chance that the plane might have been shot down?

DR KLATZOW: Yes, I'm aware that there are at least two sets of journalists who believe that the plane might have ended up outside Mauritius as a result of military activity other than the military placing something on board, in other words that a fighter pilot shot that aircraft down to prevent it from being landed. I have never supported that notion, I don't believe there's anything to support it. I find that there is more logical basis to a second fire having destroyed the aircraft, but clearly something untoward happened outside Mauritius, which was unrelated to the event which happened outside Taipei. If somebody could find somebody to substantiate that, I have no difficulty in believing in the consummate evil of the last regime in having ordered that to be done, but there is no evidence that it was done. It is certainly within the capability and the range of the available forces at the time to have done it, but there isn't a shred of evidence to support that at this point.

MS TERREBLANCHE: You referred to APC being needed for rocket fuel. In a reply from Armscor it is said that Sonchem outside Somerset West have been manufacturing APC since 1980. Are you then referring to the subtle ingredient when you talk about that?

DR KLATZOW: Yes. Ammonium perchloride is not difficult chemically to manufacture, the difficulty lies in stopping it from spontaneously igniting, so immense precautions have to be taking place, and almost certainly the rocket fuels in the modern sophisticated armamentarium that we have is not pure ammonium perchlorate, it is ammonium perchlorate with additives to give it specific properties and behaviours, either rapid ignition or retarded ignition or whatever. Now it is those subtle components which Armscor needed to find out more about, and which I believe they were planning to copy after chemical analysis.

MS TERREBLANCHE: And you spoke to Mr Jimmy Deale you said about four years ago?

DR KLATZOW: I spoke to Jimmy Deale four years ago.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I believe that he was unfortunately, he died very soon afterwards?

DR KLATZOW: No, he didn't die soon afterwards, he died within the last year.

MS TERREBLANCHE: That's a matter of the urban legend, that he died two weeks later, would you say... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: No, that's not correct, I spoke to him, I can give you the exact date, but it was at the time of the Star inquiry, and his death occurred allegedly by heart attack towards the end of last year.

MS TERREBLANCHE: To go back to APC for a moment, some other people believe that it could have been either plutonium or CCM. Have you looked into the possibility of that?

DR KLATZOW: Yes, I have. Neither of them have the characteristics which would have caused a fire. There were an enormous amount of speculations and rumours about red mercury, about mercury fulminate, none of these have any scientific basis in terms of causing the fire. Red mercury may very well exist, in fact red mercury does exist, the contentious issue is whether it plays any role in the nuclear arms sphere. There is no doubt that red mercury exists, I can refer you to the original chemical articles on this particular form of mercury, and there have certainly been a number of unexplained deaths in people who've allegedly been linked to the red mercury industry, not least of which was Alan Kidger, but there is no evidence whatsoever that either plutonium or anything of that nature could have caused the Helderberg disaster.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Last question, have you yourself ever been threatened during your lengthy investigations?

DR KLATZOW: I was at my holiday home in Simon's Town during the last investigations, when I noticed that I was under observation from the other side of the road, if you know the Glencairn housing settlement, there's a beach, the Glencairn beach, there was a group parked there in a car, and the number plate I can give you if needs be, and they were observing me closely, and when I took out my binoculars they were thrown into disarray, I took their numberplates and they disappeared hotfoot. Now that number plate was a false number plate, but that is the closest anybody's come to intimidating me, apart from strange phone calls with nobody on the other end.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I have no further questions.

MS WILDSCHUT: Dr Klatzow, I'm trying to work out whether Captain Uys had another alternative at his disposal in trying to land the plane, if he had realised that there was a fire on board. If we take it that, if we follow your theory that things were still all right about two hours after leaving Taipei, one can assume that maybe the fire happened just soon after the two hours maybe?

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MS WILDSCHUT: On a nine hour flight... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MS WILDSCHUT: ...nine hour long flight, instead of trying to land maybe in hostile territory like Bombay or somewhere else, could he have turned back and gone back to Taipei, as an alternative, if he had realised that there was something amiss?

DR KLATZOW: Well, that's possible. You must remember that Taipei at the time was under military dictatorship... (intervention).

MS WILDSCHUT: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: ...that it is not certain by any manner of means that they could avoided having the hold searched there, with all the international and political repercussions that that might have involved, but there is theoretically no reason why he couldn't have turned back, gone back to Taipei.

MS WILDSCHUT: Yes, ja, that would have been my next question, if it were possible that he could go back, what were the constraints, I mean the fact that there was... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Absolutely.

MS WILDSCHUT: ...of course a military dictatorship at that time?

DR KLATZOW: Absolutely. If there was military ordnance aboard that aircraft, South African Airway could never have afforded to have the hold searched.

MS WILDSCHUT: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: It would have effectively killed the airline.

MS WILDSCHUT: Yes. Which makes me wonder about checking the cargo at Taipei Airport. Do you suspect that there was any irregularities about the... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MS WILDSCHUT: ...checking of the cargo at Taipei, because usually they need to have a checklist of what is on board?

MS WILDSCHUT: Correct. Well there are two statements made on that. The first statement is that - by SAA personnel such as Theuns Kruger, who said to me, "Why Taipei? It's a very difficult place to have it done by". But the second statement I think should be given more weight, because it is the very man who is in charge of it, and that is Mr Jakobs, who said that that would be the right place to do it, that it was the easier place to do it at Taipei.

MS WILDSCHUT: And then the issue of, much later on of course now with all the inquiries and so on, it seems, from the documentation I have here, that Jimmy Moutons had some documentation, that he had fed it off to London for safe-keeping. Can you just elaborate a little bit about that?

DR KLATZOW: Well I've known about that for some time. All sorts of things - firstly Mouton was aware that material was disappearing from the Airline Pilots Association safe, he was also aware that they were falsifying the medical records of the pilots, that if there was a plane crash or an accident or some incident, they could blame it on the pilot's ill health. He was aware that he'd been threatened. Mickey Mitchell had approached him at the inquiry and said to him, you know, "Are you suggesting that we're trying to cover up the second fire?", kind of thing. Now all of those things, Mouton was a terrified man when I spoke to him four years ago. He honestly believed and told - and this came back to me, that I was a CCB agent attempting to assassinate him. Now that is the ravings of a frightened man. The second thing is that I know that Mouton was called in, because on Friday or Thursday last week I tracked down Yvonne Belagarde, the wife of the flight engineer, Joe Belagarde, who was lost aboard the Helderberg, and she confirmed to me that she was with Mouton, that they were close family friends, and that Mouton had been called into Margo's chambers, come back visibly upset and had told her at the time of the inquiry that he'd been threatened to drop the inquiry that he was launching, and incidentally, Ray Scott's wife confirmed that her husband had been intimidated. So there are four people, none of whom have volunteered the information, all of whom I've had to drag the information out of, who've confirmed that Margo somehow didn't want them to give that report, and it wasn't for the reasons that he put about.

MS WILDSCHUT: I take it that the insurance company had paid out SAA?

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MS WILDSCHUT: To your knowledge do you know whether the insurance company had launched any inquiry?

DR KLATZOW: Nothing of any consequence.

MS WILDSCHUT: And then, the families, were they compensated as well?

DR KLATZOW: In the most niggardly fashion that it is possible to imagine.

MS WILDSCHUT: Can you just elaborate on that?

DR KLATZOW: They paid the bare minimum that the flight regulations allowed them to be paid, and they were coerced into signing documents of waiver, they were treated rather shamefully, and there were a number of people who refused to sign it. Jenny Smith, who lost her husband aboard that, refused to sign that "shameless piece of paper", as she referred to it.

MS WILDSCHUT: And do you know if any differential payments were made out to passengers on board?

DR KLATZOW: I've never been able to prove that, okay?

MS WILDSCHUT: Thank you very much.

CHAIRPERSON: Is Justice Margo still a judge, or is he retired... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Well... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: ...and he is in a condition, for instance, to respond... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: No.

CHAIRPERSON: ...to a subpoena if we were disposed to issue one?

DR KLATZOW: I think the commission should make up its own mind on that, but on Friday last week, Peter Thorneycroft, a journalist for the Independent Newspapers, phoned him and his reply to - she asked him what his response was, and he said, "I can't give you a response, my captors won't let me", and on inquiry as to who his captors were, he replied, "The Russians". So I think that you might get, I think that we're dealing with the ravings of a man who's now senile.

CHAIRPERSON: I see.

DR KLATZOW: Maybe it is the Russians, I don't know.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Mr Magadla?

MR MAGADLA: Thank you. During the realisation by the pilots at the airport from which they had to take off, I think it was Taipei, the fact that there was going to be, or there was this delay that was taking place, wouldn't it have been relayed to ZUR that, at that time, that "Look, we are going to delay because of this and because of that"?

DR KLATZOW: It was relayed to ZUR, but not because of anything. Once - there was no need, you must remember ZUR is an open wavelength. Now you don't, unless there is a terrible need to say something, you would not discuss it as a matter of informal chit-chat. If you were delayed in take-off and there was no other problem, other than the delay, you wouldn't say, "I'm being delayed because some lunatic wants to put rocket fuel aboard the aircraft", you'd simply say, "We are delayed".

MR MAGADLA: Now, in the course of your investigations, did you come across any information or talk that certain passengers, or would-be passengers, missed that flight?

DR KLATZOW: Yes, and certain passengers were aboard that flight inexplicably. There were certainly passengers who missed the flight, I mean every time it comes up, somebody accosts me and says, "You know, I should have been on that flight", so there were a lot of people who, for whatever reason, didn't make it onto the flight, but Mr Osler inexplicably was on that flight. I'm not sure how he got to Taipei, but he had a rather hectic itinerary before getting there, and I believe that Mr Osler may very well have been linked to a front procurement company for Armscor, and he as on that flight, and part of the rumour is that Uys would not take off without an Armscor representative being aboard that flight.

MR MAGADLA: Now this conversation at the cockpit, couldn't it have been at the inquiry, couldn't it have been a suggestion that at least the representatives of the families and the commission listen to that, without it being heard by other people?

DR KLATZOW: That was never done, Mr Commissioner, not in the Margo report, but it's present in the DCA documents. You will see it is a conversation of utter triviality, there was nothing in there that could offend the most sensitive wife. I think even my wife wouldn't have objected to it.

MR MAGADLA: Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON: Well, Dr Kladzow, it remains for me to thank you for this part of your contribution to this inquiry. We are taking your recommendations extremely seriously, especially insofar as they are relevant to what the Ministry of Transport should be doing. I can only say it is only constraints in terms of capacity and time that are preventing us, especially now, from airing this inquiry as much as we could, and a number of unforeseen circumstances prevented us from dealing with this inquiry earlier, but to the extent that we are going to be looking at your evidence, and hopefully the evidence of others who will come, who will, with your assistance we will try and squeeze to present us something worthwhile, we will be able to put together not only a recommendation to the Ministry, but something that should go into the final report and which will keep this matter in the public domain until the truth has been established, whatever it costs the country and whatever it costs the parastatals. For now, thank you very much.

DR KLATZOW: It's been my pleasure, Mr Chairman.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Thank you, Dr Klatzow. I would just like to remind the panel that for all subsequent inquiries into, of witnesses, Dr Klatzow will be assisting me.

CHAIRPERSON: Yes, we are conscious of that, but since you will be acting as a consultant to the commission and therefore will be a member of the commission, you will need to be sworn in. Commissioner Glenda Wildschut will administer that.

INAUDIBLE DISCUSSION

CHAIRPERSON: Are we in a situation where we do not have a witness to call before... (intervention).

MS TERREBLANCHE: Mr Commissioner, our next witness (indistinct).

CHAIRPERSON: You are not on the record.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Oh, sorry. Our next witness is Mr Gert van der Veer, the former chief executive of SAA. He has specifically asked to be here today, because he needs to travel to Montreal for the Air Safety Convention. However... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: How ironic.

MS TERREBLANCHE: However - and he was also told to be here at 9:30 today. We have made travel arrangements for him. Unfortunately he is not here. I don't know if you want to call him.

CHAIRPERSON: I think his name must be called three times outside there, and it's true you should also, before we resume at 2:00, you should also sit in. Perhaps the proper thing to do is, if you are in telephonic conver-sation, whoever, might throw some light as to his whereabouts, please do so, and then please bring us a report at two o'clock when we next resume.

MS TERREBLANCHE: It has been confirmed to Virginia Davids by himself that he will be here at 9:30 and she has been trying to call his numbers.

CHAIRPERSON: Yes, very well. Ja, I would like you to make sure yourself that this is so.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I will do so, Mr Commissioner.

DR KLATZOW: I, Dr David Joseph Klatzow, hereby declare under oath, solemnly affirm that I understand and shall honour the obligation of confidentiality imposed on me by any provision of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act of 1995, and shall not act in contra-vention thereof.

CHAIRPERSON: Dr Klatzow has now been formally sworn in, in terms of the Act, as a member of the commission in his consultancy capacity.

The proceedings will adjourn until two o'clock or such time as, well until two o'clock, and Ms Terreblanche is requested to ensure the attendance or otherwise of the next witness, and to establish the whereabouts of Mr Gert van der Veer, former chief executive of SAA, who was expected to have testified from 11:30. We will adjourn until two o'clock.

COMMITTEE ADJOURNS

ON RESUMPTION:

CHAIRPERSON: Ms Terreblanche, who are you calling next and (indistinct)?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Thank you, Commissioner Ntsebeza, I am calling Mr Gert van der Veer, the former chief executive of South African Airways. He was in that capacity at the time of the Helderberg disaster in 1987. He's been... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: Ja, okay, before you proceed, as is customary, I will ask Commissioner Wildschut to swear the witness in, but before we do that, Mr Van der Veer, let me welcome you to these proceedings. For the record and for your own benefit, the panel consists of, to my left, Commissioner Glenda Wildschut, who is the commissioner and a member of the Reparations and Rehabilitations Committee.

I am a Commissioner, I am in the Human Rights Violations Committee and I'm head of the investigative unit.

To my right is Mr Magadla, who is head of special investigations in the operational side of the Investigative Unit.

To my extreme right is Christelle Terreblanche, who I believe you possibly have been talking to. She is assisting in placing all evidence before us in this matter, and with her is Dr David Klatzow, who is a forensic specialist and who has been contracted to come in on as a consultant to the TRC.

I need to indicate that this is an investigative inquiry, it is not a tribunal, it is not a hearing, it is not a court of law, it is not a trial, it's an information gathering exercise. All evidence that has been taken down in this inquiry, which is of a probing and investigative nature, will remain confidential.

If and when a finding has to be made, and there are persons who might be prejudiced by evidence that has been led in this inquiry, an opportunity will be given to them to make written representations and if needs be to have the witnesses who have made allegations detrimental to them brought before this inquiry for purposes, or brought before the commission for purposes of limited cross-examination. However, for the moment any evidence that has been taken in here remains confidential. For that very reason, therefore, only members of the staff of the commission and those conducted by the commission, and people invited or subpoenaed to be present and/or their legal representatives need and are permitted to remain during the course of the proceedings.

The proceedings are taken seriously, evidence is taken under oath, and persons who give evidence in terms hereof are committing themselves to obey, and therefore we expect and always, in the majority of cases, have been able to get people who have given evidence to us with due regard to the seriousness with which they must convey and supply information to us.

I will, therefore, unless you have something you want to put on record, Mr Van der Veer, before we commence, I would like to ask Commissioner Glenda Wildschut to administer the oath to you.

MS WILDSCHUT: Mr Van der Veer, do you have any objection to taking the oath?

MR VAN DER VEER: No, I don't, but I have a question (inaudible). Oh, that will help.

MS WILDSCHUT: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: Sorry.

MS WILDSCHUT: Please will you direct the questions before we take the oath?

MR VAN DER VEER: My question is that obviously there will be a recording of the proceedings, will I have access to that after this session?

CHAIRPERSON: Ordinarily, no, but if, as a consequence of any, as I indicated earlier, if we are going to be making findings on the basis of any information that we have collected here, and it may be findings of a nature that have, on the basis of which adverse inferences may be drawn about you, for instance, then in that event, it would be necessary for you to be provided with all the information, including a transcript of these proceedings, together with whatever else has been said to your detriment, so that you

have an opportunity to rebut whatever allegations are made against you, and in fact to cause such witnesses as may have given evidence about you and against you, detrimental to you, to be called so that you can subject them, either by yourself or through your legal representative, to limited cross-examination. So it really will depend, but ordinarily, and I think the commission has the power to do so, I wouldn't find any reason for a well motivated case, that you should not be given transcripts of the proceedings.

MR VAN DER VEER: Thank you. Another question please, and that is that it says here in the document that I got that you may want, or I must submit to having things, or the evidence published. Is that correct?

CHAIRPERSON: Sorry?

MR VAN DER VEER: I say that somewhere in the document here it says that you reserve the right to make, it says that:-

"The commission may require you to take the prescribed oath or to make an affirmation that the proceedings shall be recorded and may, subject to the provisions of section 29.5, be made public by the commission"?

CHAIRPERSON: Yes, ja, that is what the law says. As I have been indicating to you, this is the process. Ordinarily, and I want to emphasise that, this process is a process where evidence taken from deponents is confidential, that is why it's restricted, it's not a public session. However, the commission is empowered by the law, sub-section 5 of section 29, to make all or some aspects of the evidence collected in terms of this process, public, but before this happens, all who would be affected by such publication are given an opportunity to make representations, and it may well be that one of the representations would be, for instance, by you to say, "I do not consider that it would be either in the public interest or in my interest that such information should be made available to the public, for these reasons", and you set them out, and a decision will not be taken until an opportunity has been provided to any person who might be adversely affected by the publication of evidence gathered in these circumstances is given. So, for instance, if you are asking the question, will you be confronted tomorrow by anything that you have said here, my answer is no, there would have to be a commission meeting, and the next commission meeting will be somewhere in June, and at that commission meeting a decision would have to be taken first as to whether evidence gathered during a section 29 process into the Helderberg ought to be made public. The commission would then take that decision and then a resolution formed, but then it does not mean the following day it would be in the public domain. We would then say, "Who has given evidence here? Dr David Klatzow, Mr Gert van der Veer, etcetera, etcetera". We would then now send notices to all of those people, "Look, we are about to publish the information that was gathered from you on a confidential basis. Do you have any representations to make?", and then you make your representations. So it is going to be a process.

MR VAN DER VEER: No, I'm not worried about the publication, sir. What I'm only saying is that if it is published, then it mustn't be selectively published, and all the evidence should be put.

CHAIRPERSON: Very well.

MR VAN DER VEER: I'm sorry, I haven't got a legal adviser, but I just want to satisfy myself on these points, because we talk about transparency... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...and then one would like to see that.

CHAIRPERSON: No, I haven't got a problem, Mr Van der Veer, we would really like to you to be well aware what the process is and we welcome you having made the inquiries that you did.

MR VAN DER VEER: Thank you.

GERRIT DIRK VAN DER VEER: (sworn states)

CHAIRPERSON: May I just also indicate that if you want and you are at home with Afrikaans and you would like to give your evidence in Afrikaans, feel free to do so. We have a group of translators here who do simultaneous translations and we would therefore be - they would indicate - but if you are happy to testify in English - what I'm saying is, our preference in the commission is that people should testify in the language in which they best feel they can do so.

MR VAN DER VEER: English is my third language, Mr Chairman, so if I do fall back into Afrikaans, then, that's my second language, it might just be, if one wants to put a specific thought across, or fact across, one has to be sure that one does it in the right way. Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON: You can use Xhosa as well.

MR VAN DER VEER: Unfortunately, I'm not capable of speaking that. Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON: Ms Terreblanche?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Mr Van der Veer, welcome again. We have sent a number of questions to you, I will read it into the record. We've required your presence here today to answer questions and give evidence on your - relevant to your role in SAA during the 1980's, with particular reference to the time of the Helderberg disaster in 1987, to clarify to the TRC the relationship between Armscor and SAA in the late 1980's, including the relationship between SAA and subsidiaries of Armscor, to answer questions relevant to SAA's policy on cargo, to explain your role in the investigation into the crash, particularly immediate steps taken to secure all the records relevant to an inquiry into an air disaster, and to answer questions pertaining to the whereabouts of the ZUR tapes of all communications between the Helderberg and the Springbok Radio station on the night of the crash.

I don't know if you have prepared something on that line and whether you would prefer for us to just ask you questions?

MR VAN DER VEER: I have not prepared anything at all, I think you should ask the questions, but you are referring, in the Afrikaans note that you sent me, Mr Chairman, that you have certain evidence, and that you would like to query me, whatever it is, on that evidence. If there is such evidence, I would very much like to be brought up to date as to what that evidence is, and whether this is in fact evidence or whether it's hearsay or rumours, because the last thing, Mr Chairman, and this is what I'm worried about, about this whole hearing, is that one starts rumours. Having lost 159 passengers' lives, with the relatives, one doesn't just treat this for the, you know, for the enter-tainment of others. This is an extremely serious matter. Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON: Ms Terreblanche?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Our evidence is mainly in the form of statements made to us by former and current personnel of SAA, many of them recently. This is a process in which we would try to test those statements. In addition, there are in fact rumours going around that needs to be clarified... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: If we can assist... (intervention).

MS TERREBLANCHE: ...and this is part of this process. If we had it in public, of course, that would be a problem.

MR VAN DER VEER: Ja, that's my main concern, Mr Chairman, and if we can help to throw light on that, I'll certainly be the first person to be of assistance. I mean we all want to know what really happened, though we know what happened, we don't know what caused it, and if we can get to the real facts of that, I mean the Helderberg accident already has had its impact very strongly on the whole of the aviation industry in terms of safety standards which have been improved, in terms of money that has had to be spent, if we can find out anything more that could assist in that direction, you will have my full co-operation.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Thank you. I think we would like to just start off by asking you the exact nature of the relationship between SAA and Armscor during the mid - late 80's. There have been statements to us that you and other members of SAA, as a delegation, went to see Armscor not long before the Helderberg disaster to get some assurances that they would not inadvertently put dangerous substances on board passenger planes. We are all aware that there are inter-national regulations and that airlines try to be in line with that as often as possible, but that sometimes things go wrong. Can you just clarify to us what your agreement with Armscor was? 

MR VAN DER VEER: The agreement would be exactly the same with any other commercial customer of SAA, whether it be Anglo American, whether it be Sappi, whether it be Mondi, whether it be Old Mutual, no agreements, they're customers.

CHAIRPERSON: May I just find out from you, Ms Terreblanche, when you say that there are statements or there is infor-mation, do you have these statements, are they in written form? Then I would suggest that those statements must be made available to the witness, the witness must be able to see what has been written, so that he's not at sea, it's an entitlement which the law allows him to do. Can you arrange for him to have these statements? It will also facilitate examination and for him to reply. If, for instance, you are going to be questioning him on statements made, for instance, for argument's sake, by Klatzow, then you should say, "This is a statement that has been made to me by Klatzow, this is a statement made to me by Mitchell, by so and so, by so and so"?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Mr Chairman, I'll make available what I can, I just need to get some assurances from you, as we have discussed in detail this morning, there are some people who are quite scared, so what do we do about those?

CHAIRPERSON: Unfortunately, if you are going to be asking Mr Van der Veer on the basis of the statement which you have, the law is very clear, especially in the constitutional dispensation, it should be on the basis that he has a copy of that statement.

I will grant an adjournment for you to organise such statements as you have on the basis of which you will be questioning Mr Van der Veer, and then to make those available to him and give him some sufficient time to get through them, and Mr Van der Veer of course you will understand that these statements are given to you in confidence and that such evidence as you will be giving in relation thereto will be in confidence, and due regard will be given to the nervousness with which these people gave the statements to us, but you also have got rights, and I think it would be unfair for you to go into an inquiry blindfolded, speaking as a lawyer I won't be able to live with my conscience, even though lawyers are not supposed to have consciences.

MR VAN DER VEER: Thank you, Mr Chairman.

CHAIRPERSON: We'll adjourn for a moment to afford Mr... (intervention).

MS TERREBLANCHE: Dr Klatzow says he's got some specific questions which are not based on statements, which we can go ahead with in the meantime.

CHAIRPERSON: No, I would prefer that we should adjourn, and it should not be a long adjournment, and then, so that when we do start - let's see how far we can take the matter if we re-assemble at quarter to three, so that we have one flow and if you need further time, then you can get further time. Do you think 15 minutes will be enough, or do you need more time?

MS TERREBLANCHE: It will be enough. Thanks.

CHAIRPERSON: We are adjourned until quarter to three.

COMMITTEE ADJOURNS

ON RESUMPTION

GERRIT DIRK VAN DER VEER: (still under oath)

MS TERREBLANCHE: Mr Van der Veer, I just want to clarify that I have interviewed a large number of people and taken statements from them which were with the view to be sworn, although we have had too little time, so at this stage, as it is not sworn, I regard it as notes. I would, however, tell you if I refer to anything specific and if there's anything else, I'll make it available to you.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I would like to go just back to, can you just tell us when you started your career in SAA, and as what? 

MR VAN DER VEER: 1st of October 1983, as chief executive officer.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Before that, where were you, where did you come from, to SAA?

MR VAN DER VEER: I was part of the organisation all my life, not SAA, but South African Railways and Harbours, later on SA Transport Services, and then SAA and then of course that became Transnet.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Can we go back to the previous question, I would just like to find out whether it was the case that you ever sought any assurances from Armscor in terms of cargo?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

MS TERREBLANCHE: More than... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: I want to point out that we would not ask those assurances from any customer, because you're very much aware of the IATA regulations, which prescribes what cargo is to be transported. Secondly, that you have freight agents who are handling it. The customer must declare that on the weighbill, okay? That doesn't mean to say that SAA doesn't do inspections on cargo it conveys, particularly in the sanctions period.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Were you ever aware of people breaking those IATA stipulations, were you ever aware of illegal cargo on SAA flights? 

MR VAN DER VEER: Not really, no, not in that sense. If it was drugs or something similar, that might be reported to me, yes, but not otherwise.

MS TERREBLANCHE: So you are not aware that there were ever any military type cargo that were not encouraged to be on passenger flights or civilian flights, ever on SAA?

MR VAN DER VEER: Mr Chairman, how does one know it's military type of equipment, in the first place, would that be declared on the weighbill, and secondly, if it was military type equipment, then there is no objection of IATA and safety regulations to transport that.

MS TERREBLANCHE: As I understand, all military type cargo had to go... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: But, Mr Van der Veer, I think the question is still put, and if your question querying the basis on the question is a reply, then maybe you want to give a reply. I think the question was, were you ever aware of any military type cargo being conveyed on SAA, and I think because you're under oath, we oblige you to commit yourself to a version. If your answer is no, then that's your answer, and then you can explain, of course that, you know, "I could never have been aware".

MR VAN DER VEER: Mr Chairman, then I would like the definition of military type equipment.

CHAIRPERSON: Ms Terreblanche?

MS TERREBLANCHE: According to civil aviation, whenever a military type, any military cargo would be on a plane, they would be told about it. If it was for the military, they would refer it to Armscor or the SAAF and (indistinct).

MR VAN DER VEER: Sorry, I didn't hear the last portion?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Whenever there was going to be military cargo, according to the Chicago Convention, it would have been referred to Armscor or to the SAAF, or it would go through a different route?

MR VAN DER VEER: I'm not aware of anything in that line, but I'd like to ask, not a question, but what is the definition of military equipment? The problem is, let's assume, let's assume it's some piece of electronic equipment, okay? First of all, the name Armscor would not be on it, it might be a subsidiary or a front agency, of whom we are not aware, okay? It's gone through the freight agent and it's called a control mechanism. So the answer to that is, I accept that as a control mechanism, it could be for anything, military or otherwise. I mean that happens with every airline, or not even airlines, any freight company around the world.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I accept that. Yet you have never been aware that something was falsely declared and put on a civilian airline?

MR VAN DER VEER: No. Not something, stuff has been declared, but not in military - in terms of the military equipment you're referring to.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Are you saying that certain cargo was mis-declared, or declared as something else?

MR VAN DER VEER: At times yes, the same problem that the customs people have, because people at times like to declare things at a much lower value for custom purposes. Okay, yes, in that line one is becoming aware of things at times.

MS TERREBLANCHE: And were any of those cargoes that you were aware of, cargo that were destined for the military or Armscor, or for other sanctions-busting purposes?

MR VAN DER VEER: Not aware of it.

MS TERREBLANCHE: I think Dr Klatzow would also like to ask a couple of questions.

DR KLATZOW: Mr Van der Veer, correct me if I'm wrong, but I have very vivid memories of you being a very hands-on type of chief executive officer of South African Airways, is that correct?

MR VAN DER VEER: In certain sectors, yes.

DR KLATZOW: You were a man, for instance, who would participate in advertising, personally you would be standing on the runway with a candle and you were in some of the television ads that were screened for SAA?

MR VAN DER VEER: Quite correct.

DR KLATZOW: You were a man who put his stamp on the Airways in no uncertain terms and you were a very effective chief executive officer, if I may make so bold?

MR VAN DER VEER: That I think history has to show.

DR KLATZOW: I think you... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: I only did my best.

DR KLATZOW: I think that it was a very good best.

MR VAN DER VEER: Thank you.

DR KLATZOW: You were very much involved with the day to day running of the airline, you did not leave things easily to other people and you were a man who kept your finger firmly on the tiller, as it were?

MR VAN DER VEER: Again, in certain aspects of the airline.

DR KLATZOW: In the important aspects?

MR VAN DER VEER: Let's say yes, those things that were very important at that point in time, yes.

DR KLATZOW: You were a man, for instance, who would not allow the wastage of funds on unnecessary projects, you were a man who would see to it that the monies that the airline had were well spent?

MR VAN DER VEER: If I was aware about it, definitely.

DR KLATZOW: Certainly. But at a senior level and on important capital projects, on important projects, you would not allow a waste of money to occur willingly with your knowledge?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: Now let me turn to the fateful evening of the crash, the 28th of November 1988. When did you first become aware that the airline was missing?

MR VAN DER VEER: I must recollect, I mean this is a long time ago... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: I remember it... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: To the best of your recollection?

MR VAN DER VEER: Ja. I remember it very vividly. It was probably about, I would guess, and please correct me, about four o'clock that night, when Mr Lewis, my deputy, phoned me at house, at my home.

DR KLATZOW: Viv Lewis?

MR VAN DER VEER: Viv Lewis. And he told me that control had phoned him and told me that the Helderberg, at that stage we did not say it was missing, but that we had lost contact with the Helderberg, and that it should, at that time, be landing or have arrived in Mauritius.

DR KLATZOW: At four o'clock in the morning?

MR VAN DER VEER: I think it was about four o'clock our time, I stand corrected on that, please.

DR KLATZOW: Right. I understand that your... (inter-vention).

MR VAN DER VEER: You'll get a better idea of the time later on, sorry.

DR KLATZOW: Yes. There are always fallacies of memory, but to the best of your recollection, Viv Lewis phoned you... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: ...and said that the Helderberg was overdue... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: ...and what was your next action?

MR VAN DER VEER: The first action was that I asked him whether everybody had been advised. The answer was yes. I then said to Viv, "Viv, get to the airport", okay, "I'll stay at home", and the reason for that is very simple, Mr Lewis stays much closer to the airport than I do, I'm 55 kilometres away, and I didn't want either of us to be travelling and not be available, so I said, "Viv, you go to the airport, let me know when you get there, then I will come out", and that's what I did.

DR KLATZOW: Now, you then went to the airport?

MR VAN DER VEER: I then went to the airport, and that gives you a better indication of the time, because it was that time of the year, I got to the airport just when it was, let's say about five o'clock, the sun wasn't quite out, okay, but it was on its way, it was dusk, and you can check from that what time it was. It was round about five o'clock.

DR KLATZOW: That is correct. And who accompanied - who was there with you, you were clearly the most senior South African Airways man at the airport, who was with you that morning?

MR VAN DER VEER: At that morning, Viv Lewis was already there, Captain Mickey Mitchell was already there, because he stays closer to the airport, and some of the other senior officers, I cannot give you all the names, and then of course the people that have to deal with safety and an emergency like that, and of course Mr Venter, our spokesman for the airline... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Let me remind you of one of the people.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...communication man. Yes please.

DR KLATZOW: Sorry, I'm sorry for interrupting. Let me remind you of one of the people who was there. Do you remember a pilot by the name of Captain Jimmy Deale being there?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: You were never... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: He could have been.

DR KLATZOW: You were never aware that he was there?

MR VAN DER VEER: I cannot say I was not aware, you understand, I cannot recollect. If you give me the name Jimmy, then the name Jimmy Hepworth jumps up.

DR KLATZOW: Right. But Jimmy Deale was there that evening, would you, you won't deny that?

MR VAN DER VEER: I will not, well I cannot say yes or no. It's not that evening, please, it was early that morning.

DR KLATZOW: Right. Early the next morning?

MR VAN DER VEER: Early the next morning.

DR KLATZOW: It was after midnight?

MR VAN DER VEER: No, Saturday five o'clock... (inter- vention).

DR KLATZOW: Ja.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...in the morning, that's when I got to the flight ops building.

DR KLATZOW: Was the legal adviser for South African Airways there at the time?

MR VAN DER VEER: Mr Attie Malherbe, I don't think he was there at that point in time, no, I think he came later.

DR KLATZOW: Okay. Now, you've also been on record, very vociferously at the time and over the ensuing years, as saying that South African Airways, and clearly it is your own stated intention, wants to make absolutely certain that the truth about the Helderberg comes out?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: And that every assistance that the airline and yourself could offer was there for the taking?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: And that you would in no way intimidate or prevent the truth from coming out?

MR VAN DER VEER: Definitely not.

DR KLATZOW: And that it was the airline's stated intention to find out what had gone wrong, through Margo?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: Or through your own endeavours?

MR VAN DER VEER: We have nothing to do with an investi-gation into an airline, that is the responsibility... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: No, let me stop you... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: ...of DCA. Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Let me stop you. I understand that DCA bears the final responsibility, but you as an airline, having lost an expensive piece of equipment and 159 lives of valued crew and passengers, wanted to know what was going on, didn't you?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: You wanted to know what caused that fire, didn't you?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: You stated... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: We still do want to know that.

DR KLATZOW: ...you were going to offer Margo every assistance that was possible for Margo to get to the truth?

MR VAN DER VEER: To Judge Margo or DCA or anybody else.

DR KLATZOW: For Judge Margo read DCA, because they acted as one and the same group, but you were not going to inhibit that in any form or shape?

MR VAN DER VEER: Definitely not.

DR KLATZOW: Now, I'm going to come back to that.

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: ZUR, tell the commission what the functions of ZUR are. Let me lead you through it. ZUR, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, is a home base radio station, which maintains long distance communications with your overseas fleet throughout the world?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes, on a periodic basis.

DR KLATZOW: I'll get to the periodicity of it in a minute. ZUR is set up as a permanent radio station at SAA?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: It has a sophisticated tape recorder?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Which has a 24 hour a day reel to reel tape recording apparatus?

MR VAN DER VEER: I don't know whether the reel occupies 24 hours, but it has a continuous recording capability.

DR KLATZOW: Correct, it's roughly one reel per day, let me help you.

MR VAN DER VEER: Thank you.

DR KLATZOW: And those reels are manned 24 hours a day by a staff of about three people?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Not only are the manned 24 hours a day, but Mr De Veer, those reels are kept for at least a month, and probably nearly five weeks?

MR VAN DER VEER: Correct.

DR KLATZOW: And they are kept under lock and key?

MR VAN DER VEER: Correct.

DR KLATZOW: What is the function of ZUR?

MR VAN DER VEER: To be able to communicate with the aircraft from the, let's say this central control of the airline, and to give the pilot the ability to record to central control, and we have the system of roughly every hour of reporting back to base station... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: That's correct.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...finding out whether everything is okay, whether there's any problems or any messages or any urgency, I mean (indistinct) just having chairs and things like that, right.

DR KLATZOW: Sometimes more than an hour... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: ...sometimes it was an hour and a half, it depended... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: ...there were standing regulations?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes, and it also depended on whether one could reach the aircraft... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Correct.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...depending on the time of day, because this is not a foolproof communication system.

DR KLATZOW: No, I understand that.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: Now, ZUR, with it's full-time apparatus, its full-time occupancy of a building and its full-time staff on a three shifts a day, was not a cheap operation to run, was it?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: It cost the airline a substantial amount in salaries, perks, benefits... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: I guess so, like everything else.

DR KLATZOW: Absolutely. And it had a serious side to it as well. The last thing you, as chief executive officer, wanted to find out is if an aircraft was missing only when it was late on arrival or when it failed to make contact with an FIR?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: So one of the things... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Sorry, no, no, I mean you're making a number of things now. I, as chief executive officer, would not be informed about that or would be interested in that.

DR KLATZOW: No, let me back and let me put the questions to you piecemeal.

MR VAN DER VEER: Thank you.

DR KLATZOW: One of the functions of ZUR is, if there was a major problem aboard the airline, wherever it was, it would be expected, after the preliminaries of dealing with that contingency had passed, that they might be expected to inform the home base?

MR VAN DER VEER: Sorry, when you, no, when you speak to ZUR, you are informing the home base.

DR KLATZOW: That's the point.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: They would speak to ZUR and inform the home base?

MR VAN DER VEER: Quite correct.

DR KLATZOW: ZUR was not set up, at considerable time, cost and effort by SAA, to make certain that there was enough water on the aircraft when it landed at Seoul? That would be inter alia one of its functions?

MR VAN DER VEER: Correct, I've just referred to that earlier... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Correct.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...it might be the need for an armchair for a passenger on the aircraft or something similar... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: But of course... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: ...anything.

DR KLATZOW: Any operational thing about the airline.

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: But certainly ZUR, with a full-time tape recording facility was not set up solely to deal with the occasional armchair that you needed, or wheelchair?

MR VAN DER VEER: It had many functions.

DR KLATZOW: Correct. Of which notification of serious events aboard the aircraft was one of them?

MR VAN DER VEER: Of course.

DR KLATZOW: Right. Could you think of a single reason for me on that score why members of South African Airways whom I've spoken to over the years, have always attempted to denigrate and lower the role of ZUR to that of providing water and wheelchairs, and incidentally it's interesting that you use both, because those are the examples which have often been quoted to me, with a diminution of the more crucial role which I've outlined to you and which you've already told me is one of the functions?

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: Could you think of a single reason why people wanted to get away from that real function?

MR VAN DER VEER: Again, that's one of the functions, okay, but I cannot think of any one.

DR KLATZOW: Mr Van der Veer, you've been commendably... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: When you say you cannot think of any one, you cannot think of any one reason... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

CHAIRPERSON: ...why anybody would try to (indistinct) diminution... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: I'm not even aware of it, so... (inter-vention).

CHAIRPERSON: All right.

MR VAN DER VEER: I'm not even aware of it so... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: In all fairness I would say to you, Mr Van der Veer, that you've been commendably open and I'm enjoying the interchange, in that I'm getting information now which has been previously inaccessible to me, despite extraordinary attempts to get the kind of information I'm getting from you. Now... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Mr Chairman, on that point, sorry, did you approach the airline on that?

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: In what way?

DR KLATZOW: Telephonically, at numerous times. But we'll deal with that. Mr Van der Veer... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: In any event, now it is the TRC which, through him, is approaching you, so everyone's indebted to you.

MR VAN DER VEER: Sir, I have no problem with that.

DR KLATZOW: Mr Van der Veer, you've indicated to us previously that deep in your heart, and deep in the heart of the airline, there's a desire to find out the truth about this thing, however terrible it might have been, and yet, on every level that I have dealt with members of SAA staff, over the last 5 or six years, there is a golden thread which runs through every single investigation that I've made, and that is one of fear. So much so that I had to resort at times to interviewing your staff members or ex-staff members clandestinely in places where they would recognise me and they would not explain to me how and when they were going to get there, it was very difficult. Could you advance possibly a reason why there should be such a climate of fear which envelops the whole of the Helderberg story, apart from your lack of fear today?

MR VAN DER VEER: I cannot think of any reason at all, except one. Let me explain, Mr Chairman, I retired from that position in '93, okay? I'm not aware that while I was chief executive of the airline that you approached me for any question in that regard. Okay? I have been approached subsequently, and I've been approached by a number of journalists, and Mr Chairman my attitude was exactly the same on every, every question I got, and the answer to that is "no comment", and the reason for that is not because I was not prepared to talk about the incident at all, on the contrary, but the last thing that I want to do is fire rumours or start rumours or encourage rumours about a very sensitive situation like the Helderberg, and any journalist that phoned me, and one or two did, I said to them, "If you have any evidence about the Helderberg accident, don't come and tell me about it, don't ask me questions, go to the powers that be", and I referred them specifically to the attorney, state attorney-general, and said, "Go to them, or the Department of Civil Aviation, and any question that they may have as far as where I can contribute, I will only be too pleased to assist with, but I'm not prepared to give evidence or to give comment on anything just from anywhere".

DR KLATZOW: I think that we've strayed a little bit from the question.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: The question was, and I'm going to assume your answer was no, the question was, can you think of a reason why the whole investigation should be pervaded by fear, and I'm sure your answer... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: ...must be no? Okay. Now, let me get back again, and I'm sorry to jump around like this, but I want to get back to that awful morning when it was dawning on you that the aircraft was overdue and probably missing. Contact had been lost at Plaisance and the operators at ZUR knew about that, and you, by that time, were at the airport. Are you aware, well let me rephrase that question, you must be aware that immediately after the aircraft went missing, numerous rumours surfaced, almost immediately? You must be aware of those, sorry, I'm going to have to ask you for a verbal response onto the record?

MR VAN DER VEER: The answer is, one is aware of rumours at that point... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...and you have also yourself in your mind another 15 or 20 other... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: But of course.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...things, okay?

DR KLATZOW: But there were rumours?

MR VAN DER VEER: I guess so.

DR KLATZOW: And many of those rumours must have come to your attention?

MR VAN DER VEER: I guess so, yes.

DR KLATZOW: You must be aware that one of the earliest rumours was that there had been an acrimonious conversation between Uys and ZUR which had been tape-recorded?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: Have you never been aware of that?

MR VAN DER VEER: I've only heard that much, much - the word acrimonious I don't even know about, I'm not aware of an acrimonious conversation, and I have not heard that, I've picked that up later as a rumour.

DR KLATZOW: Were you aware that there was a rumour of any conversation?

MR VAN DER VEER: I've read it in the newspaper, there was even a rumour that Captain Uys phoned me through ZUR apparently in the middle of the night.

DR KLATZOW: Correct, that rumour was certainly current at some stage during the investigation.

MR VAN DER VEER: I think so.

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: Now you are also aware that after an accident there are certain guidelines which have to be complied with in terms of Department of Civil Aviation rules, aren't you?

MR VAN DER VEER: Correct.

DR KLATZOW: And one of the guidelines is that every available piece of information relating to the aircraft which could possibly have a bearing on its loss has to be made available to DCA?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: And that you, as a responsible chief executive officer, would make certain that that standing instruction was complied with to the last letter?

MR VAN DER VEER: Theoretically yes, as CEO... (inter-vention).

DR KLATZOW: Correct.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...practically that's impossible to do in a large organisation.

DR KLATZOW: Correct, but that would be the role of the chief executive officer... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Certainly.

DR KLATZOW: ...and that man would be you?

MR VAN DER VEER: Certainly.

DR KLATZOW: Now, you must be aware at this stage, and you must be aware shortly after the accident, that the middle tape of the ZUR tape recordings was no longer available for the Department of Civil Aviation?

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: You must be aware, and have been for all these years, that the tape regarding the take-off of that aircraft was available, and still is, in fact?

MR VAN DER VEER: I've never listened to it, I'm not aware of that, I know there is a tape missing, okay?

DR KLATZOW: Right. Let me - the tape - let me fill you in... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Please.

DR KLATZOW: ...and if you want to contradict any of it, please do so. The information that I have is that the tape of the take-off from Taipei is available. The tape recording at ZUR of the following day is available. What is missing is the tape in between.

MR VAN DER VEER: That's the piece that I'm aware of is missing.

DR KLATZOW: Correct.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay, I don't know what there is, please.

DR KLATZOW: No, we're ad idem, there's a tape... (inter-vention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: ...there's tape in between that is missing.

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: And not only is that tape missing, but the rumours have persistently alleged that there is something sinister on that tape.

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: You're aware of that?

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: You're also aware, Mr Van der Veer, that an extensive investigation by DCA culminated in a hearing chaired by Mr Justice Margo?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Were you satisfied with the outcome of the Margo Inquiry?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: You felt that it was done impartially and taking all facts into consideration?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: And in fact I remember quite well that you attended a large number of the sessions of that inquiry, because I remember seeing you there?

MR VAN DER VEER: Not a large number, a few, sorry.

DR KLATZOW: You were certainly there, because I... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: I was there... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: ...I can remember seeing you there?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes I was, yes I was.

DR KLATZOW: So you paid more than a passing interest to Mr Margo's deliberations?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: And I presume that you would have had staff members inform you... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: ...about the proceedings?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Probably Viv Lewis?

MR VAN DER VEER: Anyone that was there.

DR KLATZOW: And certainly Mickey Mitchell was there quite a lot?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes. And the legal adviser, Mr Malherbe... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Correct.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...etcetera.

DR KLATZOW: Correct. There would have been, probably daily or every other day, there would have been debriefing sessions?

MR VAN DER VEER: Not necessarily debriefing, but they kept me informed.

DR KLATZOW: Right. Now you must also have been aware that at the time, with the rumours circulating, that the missing ZUR tape would be likely to be viewed in an extremely serious light?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: And it must have been obvious to anybody but a fool, and you are no fool, that the most sinister inter-pretation possible could be placed on that missing tape?

MR VAN DER VEER: Obviously.

DR KLATZOW: And that any steps towards elucidating what had happened to the tape would have been useful?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: You were also, I'm assuming, and correct me if I'm wrong, well informed about the legal preparations relating to the Margo Inquiry, who was to be called, not necessarily the nitty-gritty... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Not the nitty-gritty.

DR KLATZOW: ...but you would have been aware of the broad... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: ...brash picture of what was happening?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: And certainly the missing ZUR tape would have been more than a detail on that canvas, it would have been part of the broader picture?

MR VAN DER VEER: It was one of the items.

DR KLATZOW: It was. Are you aware that the tape was signed out that night of ZUR? Or let me just start you a little further back, you realise that not anybody could just walk into ZUR and help yourself to a tape?

MR VAN DER VEER: Correct.

DR KLATZOW: But for the tape to get out of ZUR, it would have to be signed out according to a well-rehearsed procedure?

MR VAN DER VEER: Correct.

DR KLATZOW: You're also aware that with the seriousness of the allegations being made relating to that tape, that if the tape had been accidentally or inadvertently overtaped, that the simplest thing to do to allay the fears, would have been to take the tape, because they are large, they are larger than this book, take the empty tape, the tape which has now been unfortunately overtaped, and go to Judge Margo in open court and say, "Judge Margo, we have made an unforgivable error. Here is the tape which somehow got back into the line and got overtaped and we are sorry, but here it is". Was that ever done?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: Did anybody ever tell you at the time that the tape had been overtaped?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Who told you that?

MR VAN DER VEER: Probably Captain Mitchell or Mr Viv Lewis.

DR KLATZOW: And did you admonish anybody for this?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: Did you ask to see the overtaped tape?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: You know, of course, that the tapes have a record system of a yellow card which is filled in as each is completed?

MR VAN DER VEER: I don't know the detailed record system, but I do know there is a record system.

DR KLATZOW: There is a record system. And it would not have escaped you that, had that been the version, that Mitchell or Lewis would have come to you and said, "We've blued, this is serious, we've overtaped that tape". Did they do that?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Did they show you the tape?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: So you accepted that the tape had simply been overtaped?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Without any further investigation?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

CHAIRPERSON: Can I just... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Because it was out of my hands at that point in time.

CHAIRPERSON: Yes. You know, I just want to say you should accept that you are not on trial. I'm not saying that you have done anything to indicate that you consider yourself to be on trial, but we will ask some of the questions in a very broken and a penetrative way, and I think one of my questions which you have endeavoured to counter already is, was going to be whether you did not consider that it was a matter for which, as chief executive officer, you should have demanded more proof of it having happened, but then you had begun to say it was out of your hands. Maybe let me allow the questioning to flow. Mr... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Well I don't mean for one moment to suggest that you're on trial, Mr Van der Veer. What I'm trying to do is to get to the base of the problem. Having been aware that the tape was important, having been aware that it was taped over, are you aware that Jimmy Deale signed the tape out that night?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: That his signature is somewhere in the records and that he has told me in a tape recorded telephone conver-sation, albeit inadvertently, that he signed the tape out that night.

MR VAN DER VEER: I'm not aware that Jimmy Deale signed it. Let me explain the situation on that Saturday morning, not that night, okay? It's five o'clock in the morning, we have an aircraft missing, we're not sure what happened, okay? When Mr Lewis phoned me the first time, he said to me, "It's got fuel for another hour, hour and a half". So we did not necessarily assume that it had gone down at that point, okay? Just about five o'clock, or just after five o'clock, we then realised, if it hadn't landed at Mauritius and it hadn't landed anywhere else, it would be out of fuel, full stop. We would then have to assume at that point in time the aircraft is lost. Now the priorities on the mind of a chief executive at that time of the morning with an incident like that are yes, to secure records, obviously, but there's no way that the CEO can do that on his own, right? So it was reported to me, and if I'm correct, it was Captain Mickey Mitchell and Lewis which said, "We have taken the tapes and we've sealed them", that's it, nothing more. My attention at that point in time was far away from trying to look at detailed records, because, and let me explain this, please, Mr Chairman, the first point is, if the aircraft is in the sea, there could be survivors, what are we going to do? That's our first priority. The second priority is, we have 159 people on board. The aircraft would land very early that Saturday morning in South Africa, the people are basically on their way to the airport to meet their relatives. How do we handle them? The third thing on my mind, which you may or may not be aware, but that same evening we had an engine failure on a 747 on (Indistinct) Island, on the other side, the London route, and the aircraft, we could get no relief aircraft to remove 300 passengers. The other one is to send the rescue team to Mauritius. So when a man reports to me, whom I've got the greatest confidence in, that it's been done, I accept, I don't need to check up.

DR KLATZOW: I want to stop you there, because we've got limited time... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Thank you.

DR KLATZOW: ...and much information to gather and I accept immediately your assurances that there was pandemonium, in a controlled way, that night.

MR VAN DER VEER: There was no pandemonium.

DR KLATZOW: There was frenetic activity... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay, yes.

DR KLATZOW: ...would that be more acceptable?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Right.

MR VAN DER VEER: And high stress... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Correct.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...and everything else.

DR KLATZOW: Now, your evidence to this commission is that Mickey Mitchell told you that he'd sealed all the tapes, including the ZUR tapes, and they were ready for collection by the DCA?

MR VAN DER VEER: Not all the tapes, the ZUR tapes.

DR KLATZOW: Correct, the important ones, the ZUR tapes. Could you explain to the commission how it was that when Mr Roy Downes from DCA came to the airport to collect those tapes, they were missing?

MR VAN DER VEER: Number one, I don't know when he came to collect that... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Three weeks later.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay. Let me explain to you that in those three weeks I had not been once in my own office, okay? I only got back 21 days after the accident for the first time in my own office. My office is in town, sir, it's not at the airport.

DR KLATZOW: But I think the answer to my question is, you have no explanation as to how, once Mickey Mitchell had... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: ...sealed the tape... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: ...it could go missing?

MR VAN DER VEER: No. It could have gone missing in umpteen ways.

DR KLATZOW: Correct. But Mickey Mitchell had told you he sealed the tape?

MR VAN DER VEER: That morning.

DR KLATZOW: Did you ever approach him and upbraid him for the missing tape?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: What did you say to him?

MR VAN DER VEER: What did I say to him?

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: That was much later than just the three weeks, to the best of my recollection, remember this was 12 years or something ago, 11 years, and they told me that somehow the tape had got back into the circulation, okay?

DR KLATZOW: Did you question them how that somehow was?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes I did.

DR KLATZOW: What did they say?

MR VAN DER VEER: What can you say, if that's the situation, okay, it happened.

DR KLATZOW: Well... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: I think the question is, what did he say, if you can still remember?

MR VAN DER VEER: I cannot remember.

CHAIRPERSON: This is a tape that contained vital infor-mation relevant to over 100 people who had died in very tragic circumstances.

MR VAN DER VEER: Mr Chairman... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: I think what we are trying to say - no, I must say from the very onset, Mr Van der Veer, that we are not pretending that in the cosy room in which we are, with the benefit of hindsight, we have all the answers, but we must be satisfied at the end of the day that the suspicions that surround this thing are able to be explained away in a manner that will satisfy the 101 victims of, friends of victims of Helderberg, so that also you can say and feel at the end of the day that you are clear in your own conscience you did everything that any human being can have done in the circumstances. So take our questions in that light. So if we want to know what Mitchell said to you, if he said that to me, I don't know what would have been my reaction then, but it would have struck me as extremely strange for a man who had not only said he has taken the tapes and secured them and sealed them, for him now to tell me that those tapes have somehow gone back into circulation, so I think that's what we are trying to get at, how did this happen? We will ask Mitchell, if he does come, but, you know, we would like to know what he said to you... (inter-vention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

CHAIRPERSON: ...to the best of your recollection? Is that the... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: That's what I want to know. I'm not suggesting anything else, but you must have been at the time extremely perturbed to find out that a vital, or potentially vital, piece of information had been destroyed?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes, but not that vital. First of all... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: I'll get to that.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...if there had been a conversation, the operators would have been speaking to ZUR... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Well I'm going to get to that.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...and the individuals are there to question. That's my first point. The second point was that you must remember that there was much more evidence from the Mauritian side, in terms of... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Well, let's deal with it slowly, Mr Van der Veer... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: ...in pieces... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: All right.

DR KLATZOW: ...because otherwise I'm going to lose the thread of what I want to ask you, and I'm sure that there'll be ample opportunity at the end for you to add whatever you want and I won't interrupt you.

MR VAN DER VEER: Thank you.

DR KLATZOW: But the issue is that how could you know, at that early stage, that it wasn't vital information? Here was a piece of documentation covering the period, the exact period, when the trouble aboard the Helderberg started, how could you possibly know that that didn't have the vital piece of information on it?

MR VAN DER VEER: Because the vital piece of information, or the information, the aircraft had, the Mauritius tower had the full recording of the conversation with the pilot.

DR KLATZOW: No, that's making a number of assumptions, and I will deal with those assumptions... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Thank you.

DR KLATZOW: ...in due course, but the point is this, that you could not have known that there wasn't something important on that tape?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: And your evidence to this commission is that you reacted to Mickey Mitchell with some degree of reprobation?

MR VAN DER VEER: Disappointment.

DR KLATZOW: Disappointment, correct. Would it surprise you to know that Mickey Mitchell says that he took the tape from Jimmy Deale, who was sent there, who does not deny that, and says that he gave it into the hands of you and Malherbe. Do you wish to deny that?

MR VAN DER VEER: No, but I - it could have been, I don't know.

DR KLATZOW: Hang on, let's stop there. If Mitchell says that the took the tape from Jimmy Deale and gave it to you, do you accept that?

MR VAN DER VEER: If he says so, I will not deny it, but I cannot recollect that.

DR KLATZOW: Right. That is what he says.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay. Could you explain possibly to the commission then how Mickey Mitchell should be blamed for having lost the tape, because according to his evidence you were the last person in possession of that tape?

MR VAN DER VEER: I have no answer to that. I cannot honestly recollect. Okay, I cannot say whether he gave the tape to me, what I do know, in my mind, all the years, is that we made sure that the tape was there and it was sealed, okay? Mr Malherbe could have been with me, yes, but you must remember at that point that was not the most important item on my mind.

CHAIRPERSON: No, no, that's not the question, Mr Van der Veer.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay. So I don't know.

CHAIRPERSON: You see... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: If Mickey says he gave it to me, I will accept what he says.

CHAIRPERSON: You see, we have now to be certain, because I don't know whether I follow this very slowly. My recollection of your evidence thus far has been, until this question was put, that you were informed by Mickey Mitchell that, or the other gentleman, Lewis, that the tape had been secured and I got the impression that it was they who had secured it, they had sealed it. Now you don't seem to be denying the fact that it could have been you and/or Malherbe who did it. Now is it possible for you, if I understand and recall your evidence well, to say whether in fact it was you and/or Malherbe who secured the tape, or whether it was, as you originally testified, Mitchell who did so? Because it's then going to be able to elucidate for us as to whether the conversation which you seem to allude to took place where Mitchell came back to you to say, "We have unfortunately lost the tape (indistinct)". So it is important who secured that tape, was it you and/or Malherbe or was it Mitchell, as originally testified to by you?

MR VAN DER VEER: Mr Chairman, what does the word secure mean?

CHAIRPERSON: Taking the tape and put it somewhere where it is going to be sealed.

MR VAN DER VEER: No, I did not do that.

CHAIRPERSON: Not even in the fashion - are you then firmly denying that the tape was put into your hands by Mitchell, as has been put to you by Dr Klatzow, and that the last person who had that tape was you, because we must get a firm denial from you on that score?

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay, I did not secure the tape in any plastic bags or something like this, okay... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: That was not my question, Mr Van der Veer.

MR VAN DER VEER: No, that's the word secure.

CHAIRPERSON: No, that is not the word secure.

MR VAN DER VEER: Secondly, if it was handed to me or to Mr Malherbe, I will not deny that, okay, I don't know.

CHAIRPERSON: Can you answer the other question, are you accepting, as Mitchell has indicated, that you were the last person to whom the tape was given?

MR VAN DER VEER: I don't know. If I knew, I would tell you so.

CHAIRPERSON: Dr Klatzow?

DR KLATZOW: Well let me ask you this, at the time of the Margo Commission, you must have been aware that the rumours, ugly rumours, were already circulating and that the ZUR tape, as was indicated, if you read the Margo Inquiry, formed a part of Margo's annoyance, allegedly?

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: Margo expressed the view that he wanted to find out exactly what had happened to this tape. Now did you ever instruct Viv Lewis or Mickey Mitchell to go to Margo and say, "I had the tape and I'm sorry, we taped over it"?

MR VAN DER VEER: No, because as I say now, I cannot even recollect of having the tape in my hands, okay?

DR KLATZOW: No, listen to the question very carefully... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Thank you.

DR KLATZOW: ...your evidence has been twofold... (inter-vention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: ...the first evidence that you gave, when I first started dealing with this question, was that you asked Mickey Mitchell, or Mickey Mitchell had told you that he had secured the tape, and that upon learning that Mickey Mitchell had somehow inadvertently not secured the tape and that it had been overtaped, you responded to that with disappointment?

MR VAN DER VEER: Disappointment, hmm.

DR KLATZOW: When I put to you that Mitchell would say and has said, on tape, to me, that he gave that tape, and in fact Jimmy Deale backed him up, that they gave that tape to you, in the presence of Malherbe, you will not deny that?

MR VAN DER VEER: I cannot deny it, because I do not recollect that he gave it to me. If he did, he could have given it to me, I cannot recollect though. Correct.

DR KLATZOW: I just want to get your evidence correctly, which of the two is correct, because they are mutually destructive of each other, the two versions you've given?

MR VAN DER VEER: I guess so.

DR KLATZOW: So which of them is correct?

MR VAN DER VEER: How can I say which one is correct if I cannot recollect. You have... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Right.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...I mean you have a third person here, which is Mr Malherbe, the legal man.

DR KLATZOW: I'm going to ask him, believe me, when I get the opportunity... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Please.

DR KLATZOW: ...I'm going to ask him that question.

MR VAN DER VEER: And I hope you're going to ask him to come in.

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay, because I don't know.

DR KLATZOW: Let's get - we're diverting now... (inter-vention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Thank you.

DR KLATZOW: ...what I want to do is get back to the real issue, which is this, did you ever tell Mickey Mitchell to go and make a full disclosure of that to Judge Margo, say to him, "Look, I messed up, I lost the tape..."... (inter-vention).

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: "...I overtaped it"?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: Why not?

MR VAN DER VEER: Because at that point in time, remember the investigation into the Helderberg accident took place much much later than the accident itself.

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: Isn't it something like 18 months... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...if I recollect, because... (inter-vention).

DR KLATZOW: Yes, it's a year's gap.

MR VAN DER VEER: Well, a year went by before we found the cockpit voice recorder, you'll remember that?

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: So at that point in time the whole investigation, all documents, were under control of DCA, okay, and we were not... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Except the ZUR tape?

MR VAN DER VEER: That's right, because it was missing.

DR KLATZOW: And it was missing... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: ...they found out that it was missing three weeks after the fatal accident?

MR VAN DER VEER: Apparently, I cannot recollect when that was said to me, you're saying three weeks, I accept that.

DR KLATZOW: I'm telling you that both René van Zyl and Roy Downes found out that that tape was missing three weeks.

MR VAN DER VEER: I accept that.

DR KLATZOW: Right. Could you explain to me, the tape now having been secured by Mickey Mitchell, and according to him given into your hands, how Captain Du Toit would be in a position to say to Roy Downes and to René van Zyl that he had listened to the tape and there was nothing on it?

MR VAN DER VEER: Mr Chairman, could I find out which Captain Du Toit this was?

DR KLATZOW: I've given you the full information, I think his name was Charl du Toit.

MR VAN DER VEER: Charl du Toit, correct, okay, I'm aware of Charl du Toit.

DR KLATZOW: Now he made a statement to René van Zyl, saying, "I've listened to the tape and there's nothing on it", when could he have done that?

MR VAN DER VEER: I don't know.

DR KLATZOW: Do you think it is possible that he could have done that?

MR VAN DER VEER: I don't know.

DR KLATZOW: Now let me... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: I mean if the tape went missing, okay, and it was only found out three weeks later, what happened to that tape? I don't know.

DR KLATZOW: Now, you must be aware that Margo made the following finding: he said the ZUR tape either was over-taped or was inadvertently lost. You're aware of that?

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: Sorry, you must give a verbal response.

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: Let me put to you the reasons why I say that cannot possibly be true. If the tape had been inadvertently overtaped, somebody would have gone to Margo and said, "There is the tape". Did anybody, to your knowledge, do that during the inquiry?

MR VAN DER VEER: Not to my knowledge.

DR KLATZOW: Ever?

MR VAN DER VEER: Not to my knowledge.

MR VAN DER VEER: Therefore that cannot be a viable version, do you agree with me, Mr Van der Veer?

MR VAN DER VEER: I don't know, because I have no knowledge.

DR KLATZOW: But just reason it through and logic. If I've damaged a tape so that it can no longer provide the tape recorded information, the honest, open thing to do would be to go to the judge running the inquiry and say to him, "There is the overtaped tape, there is its card, there's all the information, I'm sorry, we've blued". Now nobody did that?

MR VAN DER VEER: Not to the best of my knowledge.

DR KLATZOW: I can assure you, I've read the inquiry extremely carefully, nobody did that.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: Therefore that cannot be a correct version. Now let's deal with that, that cannot be so. The next step is to find out what happened to the tape and who was responsible. Do you know whether Captain Mitchell ever made any statement? He sat in the court listening to the inquiry, he realised that there was a great to-do being made about the missing tape, are you aware of any statement that Captain Mitchell made to elucidate and to put the judge out of his misery?

MR VAN DER VEER: Not to the best of my knowledge, but then I didn't attend the whole court case... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Okay.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...I didn't read the proceedings, I don't know.

DR KLATZOW: But you are correct, Jimmy Deale was not called or questioned on the missing tape. Not only was Jimmy Deale not called, Mitchell had overheard Judge Margo's alleged displeasure at the missing tape, and failed, either through his attorneys or your attorneys, to furnish the judge with the missing piece, to say that either he had overtaped it, or got it back into the system, and explained how, or that he had given it into your hands, as he alleges. Could you explain that?

MR VAN DER VEER: I can't.

DR KLATZOW: There is no explanation.

MR VAN DER VEER: Well I can't explain it... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Okay.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...because I'm not aware of the detail.

DR KLATZOW: Okay, but I'm inviting you to give a logical explanation, apart from amnesia. Look at it in the light of the facts that I've given you and give me a reasonable explanation, to the commissioner.

MR VAN DER VEER: I've just told you, I cannot give you an explanation.

DR KLATZOW: Thank you.

MR VAN DER VEER: Now let us turn to another important issue. The cockpit voice recorder is a half hour tape recording of the last half hour in the cockpit, is that correct?

MR VAN DER VEER: Correct.

DR KLATZOW: It is a wire recorder which sits in the tail?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: It was recovered and deciphered?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: An official record and an official version of what is on that exists and was before the Margo Commission?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: That version was gathered at considerable expense, in excess of R200 000,00?

MR VAN DER VEER: I don't know what the price was, but the answer is yes, it was considerable cost... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Okay.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...to the taxpayer.

DR KLATZOW: Correct. Now let's get back to the flight. Have you ever flown aboard SAA flights to and from Taipei?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Have you ever taken off from Taipei on the way home on an SAA flight?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: When is dinner served?

MR VAN DER VEER: It depends what time the aircraft left.

DR KLATZOW: Well, let's put it at hours... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: ...hours after leaving?

MR VAN DER VEER: What was the timetable at that point in time?

DR KLATZOW: They left, you know as well as I do what the timetable was, they left at, I think it was... (inter-vention).

MR VAN DER VEER: It was about ten o'clock that night?

DR KLATZOW: ...it was about ten o'clock that night.

MR VAN DER VEER: I think that's round about the time, okay.

DR KLATZOW: When would they have served dinner?

MR VAN DER VEER: It depends what class you're in, but probably within an hour after take-off, because it would be fairly late at night.

DR KLATZOW: Well, do they not, is the normal standard fare that a bar service comes before the dinner?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: And that bar service is throughout the plane?

MR VAN DER VEER: That's why I'm saying it depends on what class you're sitting in.

DR KLATZOW: Yes. And thereafter they clear up the bar service, give you another drink and serve you a dinner?

MR VAN DER VEER: Normally, yes.

DR KLATZOW: Correct. Are you aware that on the official version of the tape recording of the cockpit voice recorder there is a discussion in the cockpit of dinner being served?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: Have you never been aware of that?

MR VAN DER VEER: I'm not aware of it. All I have looked at is the 83 seconds that had to do with the accident.

DR KLATZOW: But your own staff members had copies of that... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: ...of the official record.

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: And if there were a discussion of a dinner on that cockpit voice recorder, Mr Van der Veer, I want to put it to you that it is extremely important, okay, because we know that had that cockpit voice recorder stopped functioning at the top of descent into Mauritius, dinner would long since have been served up and the plates cleared away, and that the tape recorder would have been covering topics other than a discussion of dinner, because I know of no flight where dinner is served at the top of descent, is that correct?

MR VAN DER VEER: Not normally.

DR KLATZOW: Correct.

MR VAN DER VEER: I mean... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: So if a dinner is served, and if an official version of that tape recording is that dinner was discussed aboard that flight, and that conversation was recorded on the cockpit voice recorder, it would indicate that that cockpit voice recorder had stopped round about the time of dinner?

MR VAN DER VEER: I guess so, but then remember your pilot would not necessarily be served dinner when the passengers are being served dinner.

DR KLATZOW: No, normally the pilot is served dinner at the end of the passenger (indistinct).

MR VAN DER VEER: I don't know. Okay, it depends... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: That is normally the case?

MR VAN DER VEER: ...it depends on - because they have been resting, their time is out, so they may elect to have dinner or something to eat at other times, I don't know.

DR KLATZOW: That may be, but this was dinner served in the cockpit, and it was dinner served to the entire cockpit crew... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: ...and it is unlikely that the version which you are wanting to suggest is the correct version. It is likely that what happened is that at the time of the tape recording going useless, because of a fire I may add, it had its last conversation immortalised in the form of a discussion about dinner.

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: Which means that it would have occurred at the time dinner was served, do you accept that?

MR VAN DER VEER: To the pilot?

DR KLATZOW: Correct.

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: And that would not have been... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: If they discussed about it, then presumably that would be the time.

DR KLATZOW: Mr Van der Veer, you're not going to seriously suggest that your crews aboard the aircraft, and your crews have an enviable reputation for being good crews, would be sitting guzzling dinner as they're preparing to go into Mauritius to land?

MR VAN DER VEER: Certainly not.

DR KLATZOW: Correct. So to suggest that they were being served dinner at the time of the accident occurring or just before is not tenable?

MR VAN DER VEER: I guess not.

DR KLATZOW: Correct. And therefore if a discussion of dinner, which is an official discussion about dinner, is immortalised on that tape recorder, it suggests that there is or was a problem which caused the CVR to stop functioning within two hours of Taipei?

MR VAN DER VEER: Possible. I don't know.

DR KLATZOW: Well, could you give me a better explanation?

MR VAN DER VEER: It could be much more than two hours.

DR KLATZOW: Well, three hours.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: Okay. It could be?

MR VAN DER VEER: It could be.

DR KLATZOW: But... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: I think the suggestion here, Mr Van der Veer, is that, on all what he has been putting to you, the likelihood is more that the recorder was rendered unfunctionable, not as the plane was preparing to descend, but however significant the time might have been after it had taken off from Taipei? So if we are talking eight hours of travel between Taipei and Mauritius, I think what is being suggested to you is that it was more in the direction of it happening after it left Taipei than when it was just about to land in Mauritius?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes, okay. But the voice recorder did work, I mean it may have stopped, okay, I mean one could derive that from that, but the voice recorder did work when the actual incident happened... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...or when the fire was detected... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: Yes, I think... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: ...okay?

CHAIRPERSON: ...but when he says is... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Let's get that very clear.

CHAIRPERSON: ...what he says is that that is more likely to have been happening en route from Taipei rather than at the time that it was preparing to descend. I think that's what is sought to be put to you.

MR VAN DER VEER: Ja, okay. Remember when the incident happened he wasn't preparing to descend, he was still at top of level flight, and you can ask about the flying people about that.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Still top of descent?

MR VAN DER VEER: Well, before that. Okay, he wasn't on top of descent at that point, okay?

DR KLATZOW: Mr Van der Veer, if he was not at top of descent, he would have been very close to top of descent?

MR VAN DER VEER: Very close to it, likely.

DR KLATZOW: Then it would be unlikely that dinner would have been served... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: ...at that time? 

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes. I'm not arguing that point with you.

DR KLATZOW: Now, you very, very fairly conceded that if dinner is discussed aboard the CVR, it places the event which caused the CVR to stop working closer to Taipei than to Mauritius?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes, from that point of view, yes.

DR KLATZOW: And therefore a discussion about dinner would be extremely important, if it were so and if it were true?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Right. Are you aware of a group of people who call themselves the Flight Engineers Association?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Do you know that they prepared a report for Judge Margo?

MR VAN DER VEER: No, not specifically. I know a lot of people have prepared reports for Judge Margo, or for the commission... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: The question is... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: ...for the commission.

DR KLATZOW: ...do you know whether they did?

MR VAN DER VEER: If you ask me specifically, I cannot say so.

DR KLATZOW: Okay. Are you aware of Jimmy Mouton, does the name ring a bell?

MR VAN DER VEER: Jimmy Mouton, Jimmy Mouton?

DR KLATZOW: Jimmy Mouton.

MR VAN DER VEER: Just give me some more information please?

DR KLATZOW: Well, he calls himself Jimmy Mouton, but other people call him Jimmy Mittens.

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: Are you aware... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Except for having read, is this the same name on the document?

DR KLATZOW: That is correct.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay. No, not aware of such... (inter-vention).

DR KLATZOW: Are you aware of Ray Scott?

MR VAN DER VEER: Explain please who Ray Scott is?

DR KLATZOW: He was also part of the airline Flight Engineers Association.

MR VAN DER VEER: Not specifically, sir.

DR KLATZOW: Are you aware of a man called Judge Bedaar

MR VAN DER VEER: How do you spell that?

DR KLATZOW: B E D A A R, and Judge is obviously a nickname.

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: And does the name Peter de Beer also not ring a bell with you?

MR VAN DER VEER: Peter de Beer in what context?

DR KLATZOW: He was the chairman of the airline Flight Engineers Association.

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Do you remember him?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Now, I've put to you a version about the tape recorder which you have found reasonable, it is not an unreasonable suggestion and in fact you yourself have agreed that the event was the fire and that that caused the lack or the cessation of function of the CVR?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: I want to tell you that the Flight Engineers Association put together a report and attempted to put it before Margo. Are you aware of that?

MR VAN DER VEER: No. Not to the best of my knowledge again, I... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Are you aware that Margo refused to hear it?

MR VAN DER VEER: No. I wouldn't be able to understand why he should.

DR KLATZOW: Should hear it or should not hear it?

MR VAN DER VEER: Why he should not hear it.

DR KLATZOW: Absolutely.

MR VAN DER VEER: I mean there was an open invitation to everyone to submit evidence.

DR KLATZOW: Correct. And Margo, together with SAA, wanted to find out the truth, is that not correct?

MR VAN DER VEER: I hope so.

DR KLATZOW: Are you aware that all the members of the airline engineers committee were called into Margo's chambers, are you aware of that?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: I presume then you're also unaware that they were told to drop their inquiry?

MR VAN DER VEER: I'm not aware of that. I see the allegations, or whatever, the reference in this thing. No.

DR KLATZOW: Do you find that strange, that Margo should call people in who wish to present him with a perfectly reasonable explanation, and are told to drop their inquiry?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes, I would.

DR KLATZOW: In fact it might even be improper?

MR VAN DER VEER: I cannot make any judicial, but I mean it would be very - to me, I couldn't understand that.

DR KLATZOW: Well is a judge's duty not to hear and test the evidence rather than to prevent it from coming before him in the first place?

MR VAN DER VEER: I guess so.

DR KLATZOW: I'm going to read you something, Mr Van der Veer.

MR VAN DER VEER: Please.

DR KLATZOW: This is from a man who was on that committee and was called into Margo's chambers, and I want your comment on this.

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: He, Mittens and Judge Bedaar and Ray Scott were called into Margo's chambers and told to drop the inquiry. It could cost the country 400 million rand and it was causing tension. They were told that they did not have the expertise, and that national security was at risk. Present were Mickey Mitchell, Judge Margo, your lawyers for the airline and he thinks the DCA was there. Margo said to this individual, whose name is Ray Scott, "The safety of your future and your family are at risk". Let me hear your comment about that?

TAPE CHANGES - WORDS LOST - START OF NEW TAPE:

DR KLATZOW: Well if that had been said, do you find that reprehensible?

MR VAN DER VEER: I wouldn't understand an attitude like that.

DR KLATZOW: But let's assume for a moment that it was said, what would you say?

MR VAN DER VEER: That's what I'm saying, it's unthinkable that that could happen, sorry, that's all I'm saying.

DR KLATZOW: Have you read - do you remember who Guiseppe Belagarde was?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Did you see there an affidavit from his wife?

MR VAN DER VEER: I saw that.

DR KLATZOW: She was with Jimmy Mouton the day he was called in to judges chambers... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: I read that one just now.

DR KLATZOW: ...he came back visibly shaken.

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: That's what she says. Is there any reason why she should lie?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: Is there any reason for you to doubt that that was correct?

MR VAN DER VEER: No. If that's what she said, I don't know whether she did this under oath, I don't know.

DR KLATZOW: It is, it is a sworn statement.

MR VAN DER VEER: Then I must accept what it says.

MR VAN DER VEER: Are you aware that the same information has come to this commission from a number of different sources?

MR VAN DER VEER: No. Except from what I've read here.

DR KLATZOW: Correct.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

MR VAN DER VEER: Those are a number of sources, they are three sources... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: ...independent and independently gathered, and furthermore wrung from the witnesses at great cost, this was not something that they were wishing to tell, they told it at great personal anguish and pain. Is there any reason why we should disbelieve them?

MR VAN DER VEER: Not if it's a sworn statement, and I mean... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Even if it's a statement of what happened, unsworn, is there a reason to disbelieve what I tell you... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: ...and only to believe it when I swear to it?

MR VAN DER VEER: No, why should I?

DR KLATZOW: So there's no reason to disbelieve them?

MR VAN DER VEER: I don't think so.

DR KLATZOW: If that is true, would you accept that that points towards Margo wanting to cover certain information?

MR VAN DER VEER: I cannot make any deductions, all I'm saying, it's very, is the word incomprehensible?

DR KLATZOW: Would you accept, Mr Van der Veer, that if that happened, a reasonable and probable explanation is that Margo did not wish that information to come before his tribunal?

MR VAN DER VEER: That's one of the deductions one could make.

DR KLATZOW: Give me another one?

MR VAN DER VEER: Gosh, you're jumping this on me right now. I don't know. If that's the deduction you want to make, I think it's fair.

DR KLATZOW: I'm happy, Mr Van der Veer, for you to mull over that for as long as you like, and to give me a better explanation.

MR VAN DER VEER: I cannot, I cannot explain, you understand, if this is true, then I cannot explain what Judge Margo's attitude was, and again then I would suggest that one, you mentioned the name of certain individuals, that you get them before the commission, because I'm not aware of it, I'm sorry.

DR KLATZOW: Mr Van der Veer, they are terrified to the point of patheticness.

MR VAN DER VEER: Why? Sorry, I mean... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: I would like to ask you.

MR VAN DER VEER: I don't know.

DR KLATZOW: Because I can't think of a reason other than that they've been intimidated.

MR VAN DER VEER: Right.

DR KLATZOW: And each and every one of them... (inter-vention).

MR VAN DER VEER: By whom?

DR KLATZOW: ...has told me that they've been intimidated.

MR VAN DER VEER: By whom?

CHAIRPERSON: Let's put it in another fashion. Here is a judge of the supreme court (indistinct), and I'm assuming for the moment, I am not in a, this is an investigative inquiry, let us assume that it happened as they say it did happen, I mean they are saying it almost 12 years after the event, and the judge says to you, "The security of your work and your family is at risk", and I want you to contextualise this in the period that we are talking about, we are talking about 1988, and we now know, even if we didn't know then, from all the things that the De Kocks and everybody else have said, that we lived in a time and period when people did die, when people did disappear, when people did get killed, and if a judge could have said that, wouldn't it have been enough reason for anyone to be afraid?

MR VAN DER VEER: I guess so, yes.

CHAIRPERSON: And if we again assume that this took place as is indicated by these people, and I'm asking just your own opinion, don't you find that this was very discomforting?

MR VAN DER VEER: And inexplicable, and I'm very sorry it wasn't brought to my attention.

CHAIRPERSON: Yes, well we can now explain some of the things that we couldn't explain in that era. I mean the work that we've been doing over the last 2 years, exhuming bodies, being led to those bodies by senior police persons, colonels, say "This is where we buried so and so", I mean those are things that ordinarily were inexplicable. So I think what I'm trying to get at is really to get your own sense of what you, whether you now are able to say those were really bad times, "If this is true, then it explains a lot of things that I have in my own mind been refusing to accept because they were totally incomprehensible and inexplicable in what I regarded as a normal and decent, civilised society".

MR VAN DER VEER: Then totally inexplicable, I mean if this is true, then it's inexplicable, okay, and that's the last thing you would expect from any board or any inquiry. I mean I have had myself 25 years of experience in the Railways, of accidents, and I've headed boards, and the last thing I would have done, as chairman or whatever of the board, or member of the board, to point people away and ignore any evidence that they might give. Okay?

CHAIRPERSON: Let me give you another example. We lived through a period where allegations were made about hit squads and hit squad activities, there was even a commission of inquiry that was instituted, presided over by a judge, Judge Harms, evidence placed before it by an advocate of the supreme court, Tim McNally, and that went through the course, evidence was led, cross-examination took place and all that, and a finding was made by that judge, that there's no evidence of these hit squad activities, but that same judge has now had to say, in the light and in the wake of revelations, that "Had I just but known", that is more, it's in a sense that's what he says, "Had I just but known that these things were actually taking place, because now I'm able to accept", I mean it's not only Dirk Coetzee and Mfumelele(?), it's a whole legion of security police persons. So I'm just trying to get you to appreciate that this is not just an idle inquiry, even judges then were misled, that's supposing (indistinct), but then when there is evidence that says he himself took an active role in saying things about national security, things about the security of your family, things about the security of your job, and as it turns out, there were many people whose jobs, and I think that will be put to you, whose jobs took a better turn in the wake of this inquiry, but then that's something else that Mr Klatzow - but I think what I was trying to get you to understand is that if the allegations are true, and it's not just a question of it being inexplicable, it's totally reprehensible, and I would like to know that if we qualified it by saying let's imagine that these are true, would you take the view that this was the most reprehensible thing any judge, any person, let alone a judge, could have done? Are you able to say that?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes, but I don't know about the facts of it, but the answer is yes, I mean, okay.

DR KLATZOW: Predicated totally on if it was true, we're reaching the end of our session and I don't want to delay you more than I have to, but there are some important things I have to ask you.

MR VAN DER VEER: By all means.

DR KLATZOW: And please bear with me, Mr Van der Veer... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: I've got no problem.

DR KLATZOW: ...how much was a Boeing in those days, ballpark figure, give or take a few shillings here or there?

MR VAN DER VEER: Well the new 400's we bought just subsequent to that, when was it, '91, 1991, were 135 million dollars, you can work out the rand value.

DR KLATZOW: So it was, would a figure of 400 million rand be close, give or take a few shillings?

MR VAN DER VEER: Ja.

DR KLATZOW: Small change?

MR VAN DER VEER: Ja. 350, something like that, or depending on - okay.

DR KLATZOW: Let me put to you an interpretation on what Margo said to Scott. "The country cannot afford, it's going to cost the country 400 million rand", which is give or take a few shillings, the price of a Boeing.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: Okay? And the interpretation which I wish to place on that is that if the insurers had known about the true facts of the Helderberg, they would have delayed or refused to pay out that claim.

MR VAN DER VEER: Ja, one can make that deduction.

DR KLATZOW: Did they ever pay you out the claim?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes, they did.

DR KLATZOW: Lloyds of London paid out the full amount?

MR VAN DER VEER: I don't know whether it was Lloyds, because we go through a whole consortium.

DR KLATZOW: But believe me it was Lloyds.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: And they paid out?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes they did.

DR KLATZOW: Did you ever make any disclosures to Lloyds that the airline may or may not have been carrying weapons of war?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: Did you ever say to them, "On the odd occasion, we're going to be carrying explosives for Armscor"? 

MR VAN DER VEER: We never did.

DR KLATZOW: So if they found out about the fact that you were, that would have been a material non-disclosure?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: And they would have told you to take your claim and take a hike?

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: And that is probably what Margo meant when he said that to Ray Scott?

MR VAN DER VEER: I don't know.

DR KLATZOW: Okay.

MR VAN DER VEER: I mean... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Now, let me deal with another point. The role of a radio operator at ZUR, how would you describe that in the hierarchy of SAA, was it close to your position... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: ...in terms of seniority, was it a lowly position?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Very lowly?

MR VAN DER VEER: I wouldn't say very lowly.

DR KLATZOW: Well how much lower could you get than a radio operator, apart from being possibly a cleaner or one of those very menial tasks? It was, as I understand his job, it was menial and it required very little skill, he had to keep notes of what was said... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: ...and he had to see that the tapes didn't get fouled up, and it was not a job that required a rocket scientist to do?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: What is Mr Nadel doing now?

MR VAN DER VEER: Was he the operator?

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: I have got no idea.

DR KLATZOW: Are you aware that he became the area manager for SAA in Miami?

MR VAN DER VEER: No, that was subsequent to my time.

DR KLATZOW: It was very close to your time that that happened.

DR KLATZOW: When was this?

DR KLATZOW: It was shortly after the accident, Mr Van der Veer.

DR KLATZOW: No.

MR VAN DER VEER: You retired in '93?

MR VAN DER VEER: That's right, but we didn't fly to Miami then.

DR KLATZOW: Well... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: We started flying, when was it, July, was it 1990 again.

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: And I introduced, we introduced, when did we introduce the first flight to Miami? I can't remember.

DR KLATZOW: You tell me.

MR VAN DER VEER: Probably '91, I don't know. I'll have to check up.

DR KLATZOW: '91?

MR VAN DER VEER: Was it? I think so, I don't know.

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: I honestly don't know.

DR KLATZOW: Correct, which is two years before you retired?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: And therefore you did fly to Miami shortly after the accident?

MR VAN DER VEER: No, that's not shortly after the accident... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: It's within a year?

MR VAN DER VEER: ...that's four, five years later.

DR KLATZOW: No, '91?

MR VAN DER VEER: I'm sorry, the accident happened in '87.

DR KLATZOW: Yes. Yes, after the inquiry.

MR VAN DER VEER: After the inquiry.

DR KLATZOW: When was the inquiry?

MR VAN DER VEER: The inquiry happened about 18 months after the accident, so that... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: So that's '89.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...must have been the middle of '89.

DR KLATZOW: And within two years, in other words within a year, 18 months, Vernon Nadel was the manager for SAA in Miami, is that correct?

MR VAN DER VEER: I cannot, I cannot, sorry, if you look at the records, then that's correct.

DR KLATZOW: That is correct.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay, I'm not denying that.

DR KLATZOW: I want to put it to you that that is correct.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: Is that, in your experience, a fairly meteoric rise?

MR VAN DER VEER: No, not necessarily.

DR KLATZOW: Can you give me the name of one other person who has enjoyed a similar rise from radio operator status to area manager in your airline?

MR VAN DER VEER: I'm sorry, I can't answer that question, you can look at the records, but the point I'm trying to make, first of all, cargo, at one stage, at that stage, was not the most important section of SAA, we had no cargo division, if you remember, and the reason for that simply is this, because in the sanction time we had to fly around the bulge, and the aircraft has a limited payload, so you carry the kilo that brings you the best result, which means passengers, so it was only, if I'm correct, round about '91, and I stand corrected, you can look at the records, that we started in fact with the cargo division, okay? So if he was cargo manager, Miami, at that point in time, I don't know how many flights we had, but it's probably one or two flights a week, initially, and that would not be a very high job.

DR KLATZOW: No, it wasn't cargo manager, it was area manager.

MR VAN DER VEER: Was it area manager? Well then he was, gosh, you're talking '91, I think it's later than '91.

DR KLATZOW: Do you remember Vernon Nadel?

MR VAN DER VEER: Ja. I remember the name.

DR KLATZOW: Does it not strike you, because it has struck many people, in the airline and outside the airline, as a rather spectacular rise in fame and fortune?

MR VAN DER VEER: I can't comment. I would have to look at the gentleman's record, okay, where he had been, what his background was.

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: All right?

DR KLATZOW: Now, let me ask you another question, if a serious incident occurred aboard a South African Airways plane on a foreign airfield... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes?

DR KLATZOW: ...is it likely that you would get to hear of it? Let's assume a nuclear cargo fell out of it on Miami Airport, would you get to hear of that?

MR VAN DER VEER: If it was nuclear, yes, but then we never transported nuclear cargo.

DR KLATZOW: If it was military, would you get to hear of it?

MR VAN DER VEER: No, not necessarily, because we don't transport military equipment.

DR KLATZOW: Are you certain?

CHAIRPERSON: Or at least not to your knowledge?

MR VAN DER VEER: Unless - ja.

CHAIRPERSON: Because you didn't check what was being put there and what have you?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

CHAIRPERSON: I think that is what is being conveyed to you, that people like you either would be unaware of what was conveyed, but that did not remove the fact that it was conveyed, or were colluding about it and were not prepared to disclose it, no such a suggestion has been put to you, but I think you must accept that... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

CHAIRPERSON: ...we can put propositions, because there is investigation that has gone on that has revealed, so whenever he says, he premises, "Look, you were carrying, you know, military hardware", etcetera, etcetera, it is on the basis that there is information to that effect, and therefore you are entitled to say, "I didn't know about it", but I don't think you are entitled to be as emphatic as to say, "We never carried it".

MR VAN DER VEER: Not to my knowledge.

CHAIRPERSON: It would never have been licensed... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Definitely not.

CHAIRPERSON: ...for you to carry those, because... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Well, again... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: ...(a) you had an arms embargo, which was an international arms embargo, and secondly I don't think the aviation rules would have allowed you to carry dangerous substances in passenger airlines... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: The point is... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: ...and since the Helderberg was a passenger airline, though it had what I understand in your technical terms, kombi, kombi aircraft, but nonetheless it was a passenger aircraft and I'm sure your rules would have made it impossible for you to carry dangerous substances on an airline that was supposed to be carrying human beings as well.

MR VAN DER VEER: Quite correct, but the point is, certain military equipment, okay, we would, one, not know that it was military, but that military equipment would not be a danger at all, okay? There is lots of equipment that all airlines transport. I mean we transport our own aircraft components and everything else, okay?

DR KLATZOW: Would you carry rockets?

MR VAN DER VEER: I would carry a rocket if it was classified under IATA and it wasn't loaded or charged.

DR KLATZOW: Are rockets classified under IATA?

MR VAN DER VEER: I'm not sure, you will have to ask the people.

DR KLATZOW: Well let me put to you a proposition... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay, please.

DR KLATZOW: ...Mr Van der Veer, do you know a pilot called Flippie Looch?

MR VAN DER VEER: I've heard of the name.

DR KLATZOW: Have you heard of a pilot called Deon Storm?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Are you aware that both pilots, whilst refuelling and being parked on the apron at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport, experienced a very similar experience?

MR VAN DER VEER: I'm not aware of that, I have heard the rumour subsequently.

DR KLATZOW: Are you aware that, let me tell you what it is, and it is not a rumour, it is true.

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: During the loading of his plane, Looch saw them drop a piece of cargo out and walked around to find that it was rockets. Are you aware of that rumour?

MR VAN DER VEER: No, not that it was a rocket.

DR KLATZOW: What were you aware of?

MR VAN DER VEER: That there was, as it says here basically, there was a crate and something fell out of it that they might interpret as a missile. I don't know what's a missile, but it could have been a rocket then.

DR KLATZOW: Well... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: But tell me, when did that happen?

DR KLATZOW: That happened a few years before the Helderberg.

MR VAN DER VEER: A few years?

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: Before '83?

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay. I just want to put it clear that before '83 I wasn't there... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Correct.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...so I wouldn't know. I know the rumour.

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: I never investigated the rumour, there was no need.

DR KLATZOW: It happened '84, '85.

MR VAN DER VEER: I'm not aware of it.

DR KLATZOW: Okay.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: Now, Looch has confirmed that and so has Deon Storm. Can you think of a reasonable explanation as to why SAA have gone to extraordinary lengths to suggest that these were mirage wing tanks?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: Surely, and I want to put it to you, Mr Van der Veer, that if they were rockets, if they were something which Captain Looch and Deon Storm, both ex Defence Force pilots, would have easily recognised, and would not have been confused between that and a drop tank, if they were in fact things that were classified to be carried aboard your airline, the airline could have easily said, "These are IATA approved, they are uncharged, we'll carry them and mind your own business", can you think of a reason why they didn't say that and why they tried, as recently as three years ago, to try and convince me that they were drop tanks for a mirage?

MR VAN DER VEER: Who tried to convince you? Sorry, I just... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Theuns Kruger tried to convince me.

MR VAN DER VEER: Theuns Kruger... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...Dr Theuns Kruger?

DR KLATZOW: Yes, the same man.

MR VAN DER VEER: And Captain Storm?

DR KLATZOW: Well, Deon Storm never spoke to me, I have a report of his, but Flippie Looch did, and he was very unwilling to talk until I suggested to him that SAA had already suggested to me, and incidentally the other person who told me that was John Hare.

MR VAN DER VEER: John Hare wasn't with the airline then.

DR KLATZOW: But he was when I asked him the question... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: ...and that's the answer he gave me.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

CHAIRPERSON: There's an interesting linkage there again, talking about weapons and I mean armaments and SAA, because John Hare was in Armscor, wasn't he?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes, he was.

CHAIRPERSON: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: And I recruited him from there, Mr Chairman, if you're worried about it, and that he was one of the experts on money, and I think I included him... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: (Indistinct) expert on... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Well... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Is that all?

MR VAN DER VEER: We took him in as financial manager specifically for that job.

DR KLATZOW: Yes, but the picture I'm painting for you, Mr Van der Veer, is a very simple one. You've got a series of inexplicable things happening. In each and every occasion the airline has reverted to some kind of devious way to escape the truth, "It's not rockets, it's mirage wing tanks", okay?

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: "We never fly that sort of cargo". Inciden-tally, as recently as a few years ago, well after the Helderberg, one of your officials was involved in a similar issue. Do you have or did you ever have a man in your airline by the name of Mike van Rensburg?

MR VAN DER VEER: In what position?

DR KLATZOW: Was he not the cargo manager at Singapore?

MR VAN DER VEER: There was a Mike van Niekerk in Singapore.

DR KLATZOW: All right, I might have got the name wrong.

MR VAN DER VEER: Because we started flying very late to Singapore, you may recollect... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Okay.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...and the gentleman was Mike van Niekerk.

DR KLATZOW: Mike van Niekerk. I accept that I may have been wrong in that. He was with one of your employees at Singapore, and the employee, who was a contract worker for you, overheard the following conversation, quote, "How are the Armscor shipments going?", "Fine, thank you". "Are they still being shipped out under the title of hairdryers?" Could you comment on that?

MR VAN DER VEER: I can give no comment on that at all.

DR KLATZOW: Well, you see, what I'm suggesting to you is that senior members of staff of your airline knew that Armscor was breaking the regulations, they knew that cargo was being misdeclared, and they continued to do this even after the Helderberg had happened?

MR VAN DER VEER: I'm not aware of that, okay? As I said earlier on, I mean I'm not denying that we have not shipped Armscor equipment or whatever it is, but then it would have been without the knowledge. Secondly, if you... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Without whose knowledge?

MR VAN DER VEER: On my instructions of the management, okay? But if people had been aware of that, then I would be very, I mean I would have been very disappointed they did not tell us about it.

DR KLATZOW: Well it goes further than that... (inter-vention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: ...Mr Van der Veer, because these are senior people, this is not a boy pilot or a boy running the airline, these are senior members of your staff, and what I want to say to you is this, that are you aware that Boeing employed a fire expert to examine the cause of the fire in the Helderberg?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: Do you remember from which firm he came?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: His name was Mr Southeard and he came from a very, very reputable firm called Dr J H Burgoyne and Partners in London.

MR VAN DER VEER: Uhum.

DR KLATZOW: They are probably the finest fire experts in the world. Do you remember what his conclusions were?

MR VAN DER VEER: No, but I remember speaking to him.

DR KLATZOW: Well let me tell you what his conclusions were. His conclusions were that the fire was unlikely to be a fire which was fuelled by ordinary packaging material, that it had to be a promoted or accelerated fire with something that contained its own oxygen.

MR VAN DER VEER: I do not remember that, but carry on.

DR KLATZOW: Believe me, that is what he found. Can you give me a reasonable explanation why Margo ignored that finding?

MR VAN DER VEER: No. If that was his finding that was given to Judge Margo, no I cannot give you any explanation. But I mean there were many - if he was an expert on that, sorry I'm just trying to, while I'm talking I'm just trying to recollect, you understand? You are aware of the experiment that was done where we rebuilt... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Yes, I am aware of it.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...the back of the aircraft... (inter-vention).

DR KLATZOW: Yes.

MR VAN DER VEER: ...and tried certain experiments as to what could and could not have happened.

DR KLATZOW: Let me stop you there.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: I'm aware of that experiment.

MR VAN DER VEER: Thank you.

DR KLATZOW: I know that Theuns Kruger and Dr John Bland conducted that experiment, and I must tell you at the onset that if ever that were to be presented in a court of law, it is so deficient in experimental design that anybody would have little difficulty in shredding it.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: It was simplistic in the extreme.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay.

DR KLATZOW: Here you had a man who had done intimate calculations, and furthermore he was the only man called under oath... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

DR KLATZOW: ...at the Margo Inquiry, and Margo inexplicably ignored his findings. Can you give me an explanation?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: Right. What I'm saying to you is that everything here points, that I've told you today and I've been open with you, Mr Van der Veer, everything points to a situation where Margo either deliberately misdirected the inquiry, or was stunningly incompetent in actually getting at the truth, it points to a cover-up, in terms of missing documentation, where people would be justified, in the light of no better explanation forthcoming, in saying "Where did the tapes go?" It points to a situation where vital evidence, and you've conceded that the tape recording of the cockpit voice recorder is vital evidence, has been ignored, and in fact the judge directed that that not be heard in open court, everything points to an interpretation of a cover-up, which if it is to be ever waylaid and refuted, requires now urgently a new inquiry under proper director-ship, to be launch forthwith. Would you give that your blessing, having heard what you've heard today?

MR VAN DER VEER: I would say anything that can throw light on the cause of the accident, and I said that earlier on in this inquiry, I would support.

DR KLATZOW: But, Mr Van der Veer... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay?

DR KLATZOW: ...you've heard an interpretation today which I've given you, which you have... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: I've got no objectoin.

DR KLATZOW: ...you have no answers to many of the questions.

MR VAN DER VEER: No, no.

DR KLATZOW: Not only do you have no answers, you claim today at this inquiry that you've never heard these inter-pretations before.

MR VAN DER VEER: I've heard the rumours.

DR KLATZOW: But I've given you certain interpretations to that.

MR VAN DER VEER: Okay, you've given me certain inter-pretations.

DR KLATZOW: And they're not rumours, what I've given you today is not rumours, I have given you factually based material and you have no answers... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: ...to them?

MR VAN DER VEER: No.

DR KLATZOW: Can you think of any reason why this inquiry should not be started again and the entire Margo report be reworked?

MR VAN DER VEER: I think that's for you to decide, okay?

I don't... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: I'd like an answer to the question please.

MR VAN DER VEER: If you want an answer, then it's no.

DR KLATZOW: You don't think that the Margo Inquiry should be restarted?

MR VAN DER VEER: No, I didn't say that, I've just said if you want to restart the Margo investigation and it is a panel of experts, no objection.

DR KLATZOW: But you see, do you see the reasons why those of us who have investigated this for so long, have the deepest, darkest misgivings about the whole affair?

MR VAN DER VEER: That I can understand.

DR KLATZOW: Well that alone, Mr Van der Veer, should enable you to motivate strongly that the inquiry should be re-opened, that fact alone... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: I'm sorry, I've seen a couple of pieces here, you have a whole line-up of people coming in for the rest of the week, okay, and I would, at the end of that, I would like to see exactly what their, let's say not their reactions are, that's irrelevant, but their statements as to the facts, but if it is necessary, please do re-open it.

DR KLATZOW: What would be your response, would you welcome... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: I would welcome it.

DR KLATZOW: ...an inquiry and a reinvestigation?

MR VAN DER VEER: I would welcome it, if there's any doubt, then I would welcome that you open it up and, as you're doing now... (intervention).

DR KLATZOW: Do you see the need for it, Mr Van der Veer?

MR VAN DER VEER: Yes.

CHAIRPERSON: Dr Klatzow, I don't think you can take the matter any further with Mr Van der Veer, I think he has - have you further questions?

DR KLATZOW: Mr Commissioner, thank you very much, I've run out questions. If there are some which re-occur, maybe Mr Van der Veer would give me the opportunity of putting to them in his private capacity at a later stage, or as I pursue my investigation. Would you have any objectoin to that, Mr Van der Veer?

CHAIRPERSON: No, no, no, no... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: I can't do that.

CHAIRPERSON: ...(indistinct).

MR VAN DER VEER: I mean if there's anything to be submitted... (intervention).

CHAIRPERSON: He forgets that he's now an employee of the commission.

MR VAN DER VEER: That's my problem, sir, that's my problem. If the commission comes back to me on any other questions, I'd only be willing to answer, I have no problem with that, but I cannot answer individuals, I'm sorry.

DR KLATZOW: I withdraw the question.

MS TERREBLANCHE: If you remember or have anything more on the matters that were discussed with you that you perhaps would think of making a written presentation on it to the commission?

MR VAN DER VEER: I will.

MS TERREBLANCHE: Thank you very much, Mr Van der Veer for... (intervention).

MR VAN DER VEER: Pleasure.

MS TERREBLANCHE: ...making yourself available.

CHAIRPERSON: Any questions from the panel? Mr Magadla?

MR MAGADLA: Mr Van der Veer, are you aware of a delay of the departure of that plane from Taipei?

MR VAN DER VEER: No. No, I think, sorry, again, I have to think very very carefully, I must be very honest with you, I have closed my mind to the Helderberg, okay, it was one of the most traumatic experiences in my life. I haven't read anything on the Helderberg subsequent, I even was given a book by somebody who wrote it, I haven't read that, okay? It's past, and one tends to say, "Look, get it out of your mind". A question which still stays with me is the cause of that fire, but I think there was a slight delay, if I recollect, I think there was a slight delay in the departure, but the record will show that very clearly.

MR MAGADLA: Could there have been an explanation for that slight delay?

MR VAN DER VEER: Sir, aircraft have delays, okay, for umpteen reasons, there would be umpteen reasons, and if somebody hid the reason, that would also be quite acceptable, because aircraft, I mean 20% of them get delayed normally. I may also just say something, where's the doctor, is he not here, on his cockpit voice recorder, I'm at present on the board of an airline in India, they had an incident on Saturday morning on the runway. What is very interesting is that the cockpit voice recorder tape stopped at a certain point, and started again later on. Okay, that's one of the first things we found out. I'm just referring to what Dr David asked me about, you know, when the cockpit, the tape stopped. Again, what I'm just saying, these things happen, to explain them away is very, very difficult, and I'm very interested to see what the Bombay story is. I'm just giving this to the panel, to say that these things don't work perfectly, unfortunately.

CHAIRPERSON: Well thank you very much, Mr Van der Veer. I have, on behalf of the commission and on behalf of this panel in particular, to thank you for having made yourself available, at what, in ordinary circumstances, was short notice really, and in circumstances where you have not even had an opportunity to prepare yourself, and that you were even prepared to come without any legal representations.

These are heavy matters for us and we feel ourselves totally inadequate to the task, but we have a job to do which we hoped we would do, and if your attendance here has assisted us in getting a better picture of what was going on in those days, we are very, very indebted to you.

When you read, if you had an opportunity to do so, letters from scores of people who write to the Archbishop in his capacity as chairperson of the commission, and some letters in representative capacity from institutions such as the Friend of the Victims of Helderberg, an organisation calling themselves FOVA, people who were enraged even about the fact that we are having this in camera, because there is a burning suspicion that once again the matter is being covered up because there's something to be hidden away, you can appreciate why we may have gone a little bit further in our probing in the manner in which questions were put by Dr Klatzow. It was not intended to be any reflection on your integrity, it was intended to possibly cause you to reflect also, and for us it is in fact moving to hear you say you have not wanted to look on this incident, to a point where you have not even read any books that have been written on it. It can only explain to us that you are a human being and you are aware of the allegations that have been made, and for us who have been entrusted with the duty to establish the truth, and we are not very successful in most cases, it is something that we have to do, even if it means dragging you into these hearings. Believe you me, it's not something we do with relish or with glee. We are endeavouring to find, in the interests of this country and in the interests of future government, if there was a group of people or some people who were involved in a tragedy that cost this country and very many other countries the sort of trauma that you also have been going through, then those facts need to be established, if it is possible, not for their own sake, but to make sure that in the future your children and my children can live in societies where deviousness should not be of a nature that lives can be sacrificed at the altar of political expedience, and if our inquiries are going in that direction and we prove that, then your coming here would not have been in vain, because you will have added in a way you cannot understand, a thread that, taken together with others, might bring us closer to finding out what exactly happened.

It's a long way of saying thank you for having come, and believe us when we believe that there are certain aspects that we think you can assist us with, we will officially communicate with you.

For the moment you are excused, and I am sure we have no longer, or no more use for you.

Thank you very much.

MR VAN DER VEER: Thank you, Mr Chairman, that last word I don't like, "no more use for you", but - I'm an old man already, but no, all I want to say is that if there's anything that the Truth Commission needs, or other questions subsequent to this, I will be very grateful to answer them, I don't have a problem with that, and if I recollect things, then I will also, you know, like Christelle asked me, I will slowly start this computer moving again and say, "Look, you know, what can you or what can't you remember?"

The other thing is, there are other people you may also want to ask to come to the commission. I've mentioned for instance, what's it, Mr Lewis, as one name, who was my deputy, and I mean he was deeply involved in that. The other gentleman that was deeply involved in this is Mr Boschoff, who in fact was later on seconded to the DCA to help them with the investigation on the island. Another gentleman, Mr Nic Vlok, who's now with Comair, okay? What I'm trying to say is, if you look for more evidence, then there are more people who could throw light. Captain Jimmy Hippert, I think is a gentleman that could help very much. I don't know whether you're going to bring Captain Deon Storm in, I have the highest regard for him as an individual. All I'm saying is, you know, then that should happen, and if there's anything else I can be of assistance with, please shout.

CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr Van der Veer.

WITNESS EXCUSED

CHAIRPERSON: Is there any more evidence you are calling, Ms Terreblanche?

MS TERREBLANCHE: Not today, Mr Commissioner.

CHAIRPERSON: We're adjourned until half past nine tomorrow.

COMMITTEE ADJOURNS